Good Morning Britain (GMB) viewers have been warned that the UK has not reached the “beginning of the end” of Covid-19, ahead of the lifting of restrictions later this month.
Dr Hilary Jones said the zero coronavirus deaths figure announced on Tuesday (1 June) does not mean that the pandemic is over, saying there is a ‘lag time’ between rising cases and hospitalisations.
Covid cases still rising
Dr Hilary, medical professional and GMB Health Editor, explained to show hosts Ranvir Singh and Adil Ray that the death rates reported are figures from up to three months ago.
There is lag between the reporting of deaths, hospitalisations and the latest number of Covid-19 cases, so it is not an accurate picture of what is happening at the moment.
Cases of the highly-transmissible Delta Covid variant are still continuing to rise across parts of the UK and with 15 million people still yet to be vaccinated, further lifting of lockdown restrictions could spark a surge in infections.
Asked about the zero deaths figure on this morning’s (2 June) show, Mr Singh questioned “is this a false dawn saying there are zero deaths, or is it the beginning of the end?"
Dr Hilary responded: "No it is not the beginning of the end. What we have is a lag time, death rates follow hospitalisations after a few weeks, and hospitalisations follow increased cases for a number of days if not a few weeks, and we also have to contend with it being a Bank Holiday weekend.
"So, we are seeing what is going on about three months ago - maybe two to three months ago.
“At the same time, we are seeing cases of a supposedly more transmissible variant.
"In Scotland, cases recently went up from 80 odd to well over 600 a day. So what do we understand about that?
“Numbers are increasing again and if restrictions easing right now means people getting together in pubs or restaurants, or on beaches, or in parks, then of course we are going to see more cases and only 75 per cent of adults have only had that first dose.
"That means there are around 15 million people who have not yet been vaccinated at all."
Scotland entering third wave?
Dr Hilary’s warning comes as Scotland’s national clinical director said Scotland is entering a “third wave” of coronavirus, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon pausing plans to ease some restrictions on Tuesday.
Ms Sturgeon said the country was still at a “delicate and fragile point” in the battle with the virus, as she announced that some parts of Scotland will remain under Level 2 restrictions.
In the latest lockdown update, the First Minister confirmed that parts of the country will move to Level 1 restrictions on Saturday (5 June), but the vast majority of the central belt, including Edinburgh, will remain in Level 2 while Glasgow will move from Level 3 to Level 2.
The changes come as clinical director Jason Leitch said the Delta Covid variant “is causing us some challenge and is spreading quicker than we hoped”.
Asked by BBC Radio Scotland’s Drivetime if the country was at the start of a third wave he replied: “Yes, I think we are. The question is how big that third wave is – everybody, every modelling higher education institution… they all said, if you open you will get more cases.
“Now I’m not sure I needed a university to tell me that, I think people in the street would have told me that.
“The question is, whether you control that to a level that doesn’t cause enough severe disease to fill hospitals, and enough severe disease to cause misery and death to families.
“That’s the balance we’re now trying to strike and the advice we’ve given and the decisions the First Minister and the Cabinet have made today.”
The planned lifting of all lockdown restrictions in England on 21 June also hangs in the balance, as scientists are split on whether the government should press ahead later this month as Covid cases continue to rise.
Professor Adam Finn, of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said there are still many people who are vulnerable to the effects of Covid-19 as he warned “the idea that somehow the job is done is wrong”.