A government scientific adviser has warned there is always a risk we “might have to go backwards” after the national coronavirus lockdown is eased.
Public Health England (PHE) said on Sunday six cases of the variant, which may spread more rapidly and may not respond as well to existing vaccines, had been found. Three of the cases were identified in England and three in Scotland.
Pressed how worried he was regarding the detection of the Brazil variant in the UK, professor Medley told the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Well I think it is a variant of concern and that we are going to be faced with these in the next six months.
“As we move towards relaxing measures then there are going to be challenges on the way. There is always a risk we might have to go backwards and that’s what no-one wants to do, is actually open up and have to close down again.
Professor Medley said it was vital the monitor the variants, including sequencing, to know the impact of new variants, and also warned regional variations in prevalence of the virus may pose a bigger risk.
“I think that’s in a way going to be a bigger challenge for the government going forward than the variants if I’m being completely honest,” he said.
He added: “We are already seeing and when we start opening up, we will see more variant in terms of prevalence around different parts of the country.
“At the moment all the thinking I’ve seen has been largely national in terms of thinking about what the data are what we need to guide the process of releasing these measures, but the data will show different things in different parts of the country.
“So the challenge will be what do you do in terms of opening things up when in one place it’s a good idea and other places it isn’t.”
His remarks would appear to cast doubt on the national strategy adopted by Boris Johnson to ease lockdown measures in England. Unveiling the government’s roadmap last week, the prime minister laid out a national relaxation of measures, rather than a return to the regional, tiered system.