Despite Lockdown End Talk, Top Govt Scientist Whitty Insists No Return to Normality Until 2022

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson (R) and Britain's Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Whitty attend a virtual press conference inside 10 Downing Street in central London on February 15, 2021, to give an update on the coronavirus covid-19 pandemic. - Britain intends to seek a "cautious but irreversible" ending …
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The UK government has laid out its blueprint for the final stage of withdrawing from over a year of on-off lockdown, but its own chief medical officer has said he foresees no return to normal until Spring 2022, predicting a “quite difficult winter” of coronavirus cases.

Professor Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer of England who has taken the podium in dozens of government press conferences since early 2020, providing a summary of data alongside government ministers and the Prime Minister, and for many the ‘face’ of the Coronavirus crisis, has warned government officials of his bleak outlook on the winter to come.

Speaking to local government officials in remarks reported by The Times, Whitty’s words stood in direct contradiction of the official line of the government he serves, which this week has been laying out how almost all coronavirus regulations will probably be ended this month, pending a final decision next week.

While the Prime Minister spoke of mask mandates and restrictions on businesses ending, Whitty gave a bleak prognosis, saying a return to normality is “going to take quite a long time” and that he would be surprised if “we got back to what most of us see as a kind of status quo before the next spring.”

Underlining why he thought the British public shouldn’t be looking forward to getting back to normal this year, Whitty said that’s because the government would have to deal with “the next wave” and “quite a difficult winter” for the NHS. He said that beyond coronavirus coming back in the winter, there would also be a “normal” surge in other respiratory illnesses during the winter, possibly a reference to flu.

Whitty cited young people not rushing to get vaccinated at the same high pace as their older, more vulnerable neighbours as a reason for the rise in covid cases he foresaw, remarking “We don’t know how big of an issue it’s going to be but I think we should assume it’s not going to be trivial”.

The comments by the chief medical officer underline the warning made by Conservative elder statesman and leading lockdown critic Sir Iain Duncan Smith, who said this week that the chances of Britain reentering lockdown this year are “enormous” because the government, despite claims, is chasing a zero-risk approach to health policy.

Sir Iain said: “It’s not that we can banish the risk. The risk will be with us. But what kind of a risk is it, and how do you mitigate it and at the same time, how do you get on with your lives? That’s the balance… And we have to get the balance back, or it just won’t work, and I think we will face this again.”

Even the Prime Minister has now said that lockdowns are harmful to the country, noting they take a toll on “people’s lives, livelihoods, on people’s health and mental health.” But even as he announced the end of lockdown, probably this month, PM Boris Johnson implicitly acknowledged that the arguments for lockdown later in the year would be much greater than they are now.

He also confirmed that, despite having repeatedly seen in recent months that he wanted the end of lockdown to be “irreversible”, that the government was nevertheless retaining “contingency measures to help manage the virus during higher risk periods such as the winter”.

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