Jonathan Van-Tam today shot down the call for a three-meter social distance rule and mandating outdoor masks.
England’s deputy chief of medical service argued that widening the gap between social distances would make little difference to the spread of the highly contagious Kent strain of the virus as there is no evidence that it can travel further when coughing or sneezing than ordinary strains of Covid.
For that reason, he believes the ‘one meter plus’ rule, which is considered effective in controlling the original species, was good enough to block the mutated species.
Leading members of the government’s scientific advisory panel, SAGE, would push for the measure in a desperate attempt to get the new variant under control.
When asked about a possible 3m rule, Professor Van-Tam told LBC, ‘The question you’re asking is whether the new variant will really be able to travel a greater distance, and that doesn’t fit with my biological understanding, because the distance refers to the force of the cough or sneeze or the drop of breath that flies out of you.
‘Unless we said that the variant makes you cough in a different way or cough more intensely, I don’t see how you can gain that extra distance, as in the long jump, as it were.’
Professor Van-Tam also dismissed reports that face masks could be mandatory in any outdoor and indoor environment, saying they are only needed in ‘high risk’ places.
He added: ‘The science of masks has changed as the pandemic has evolved, my view remains that the really high-risk transfer environments are indoor spaces and the government’s advice is to wear masks or coverings in indoor spaces and there I am it agree.’
Jonathan Van-Tam has been shooting reports that No10 is considering extending the one meter remote rule to three meters or making outdoor masks mandatory.
It’s because No10 is considering taking the lockdown curbs even further as the national shutdown struggles to take down cases of the new Covid tribe.
Downing Street is considering options ranging from limiting takeaways and clicks and pickups, to closing more workplaces and daycares, and banning people from exercising with friends.
The South African variant of the coronavirus ‘takes root’ in the UK
The super-contagious South African coronavirus strain is ‘taking root’ in the UK, experts warn.
So far, the government has only announced two cases of the variant in the UK, both of which were patients in London who had been in contact with travelers from South Africa last month.
But a leading SAGE scientist claimed today that a ‘small’ number of Britons tested positive for the species in recent weeks, which have not yet been made public, Politics reports.
Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt hinted that the mutated species was more widespread than the official story suggests, adding, “It seems to be taking a little root in the UK.”
Public Health England declined to confirm the reports today, but said it would release an update to the variant ‘very soon’.
The mutant variant caused panic after it sparked an explosion of cases in South Africa.
British scientists were especially concerned about its discovery in London last month as the UK is already fighting the Kent species, which has plunged the UK into its third national lockdown and sparked a wave of hospitalizations.
The South African strain is believed to be even more transmissible than the Kent strain, and there are significant changes in the spike protein that open the door to vaccine resistance.
However, on Friday, a leading SAGE expert told MailOnline that there was ‘no evidence’ of widespread transmission of the variant – dubbed 501.V2 – in the UK.
Amid signs that the cases are flattening, Matt Hancock said the ‘next few days’ would be key to understanding if the lockdown is working, with the prime minister having to wait until the weekend to make a final decision on new measures.
However, scientists have warned that critical capacity in the NHS will still be under tremendous strain in March due to the delay between infection and becoming ill, with up to 250,000 people a day reported to have contracted the virus.
The London Councils and Mayor Sadiq Khan today called on Johnson to introduce new measures, such as closing places of worship immediately, otherwise they risk an ‘unsustainable pressure’ on services.
Meanwhile, Nicola Sturgeon has said she could announce a hardening in Scotland today, suggesting click-and-pick-up and takeaways will be curbed to reduce socializing.
In a round of interviews this morning, Mr Hancock told Sky News it was “impossible to know” when the restrictions could be relaxed.
“We will not keep the restrictions longer than necessary, but we will keep them in place for as long as they are needed,” he said.
He added: ‘I’m seeing if the number of cases is just starting to level off. I hope we start to see that in the coming days. The few days ahead are the critical time to know if this national lockdown is working. ‘
Meanwhile, during his LBC interview, Professor Van-Tam also defended the decision to prioritize giving as many people a first vaccination shot as possible rather than keeping doses to deliver booster shots after three weeks.
He said the country was in “a supply constrained situation” because of the time it takes to deliver vaccine doses.
‘We all have elderly loved ones and if we want to protect as many of them as possible as soon as possible, with a meaningful amount of protection, then the right strategy for us is to give the first dose first and come back for the second one as we get more people the first dose, ”he said.
“If you have two grandparents and you have two vaccines, what do you do – do you give one two doses and leave the other nothing?”
With a 10-12 week delay before people now receive a second injection, Professor Van-Tam admitted there was no data available on the protection the first shot would provide at that stage, although he was ‘absolutely comfortable’ with the decision.
If you take an extremely purist answer and say ‘where does the data end? “, The data ends after 42 days,” he said.
“But if you take an expert scientific standpoint, it is simply unlikely that the protective effect will disappear after that and we are confident that there will be adequate protection on board until the second dose is given.”