Public Health England’s Dr Susan Hopkins on the Andrew Marr Show

PUBLIC Health England (PHE) has warned that relaxing lockdown measures would have to be done “very slowly, very cautiously” to avoid a surge in infections.

Dr Susan Hopkins, Covid-19 strategic response director at Public Health England (PHE), said on the Andrew Marr show that the NHS is going to be under pressure until the end of March.

Dr Hopkins said: ““We have learnt, as we did on the first occasion, we have to relax things really quite slowly, so that if cases start to increase we can clamp down quite fast.

“The NHS is going to be under pressure until the end of March, as normal in winter, but even more so with the amount of inpatients they still have with Covid-19.

“Any releases that we have will have to happen very slowly, very cautiously, watching and waiting as we go, with a two-week period to watch and see the impact of that relaxation because it takes that to see what’s happening in the population.”

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Vaccine impact

Dr Hopkins also that said experts expect to see an impact of the coronavirus vaccine on the over-80s over the next two weeks.

Asked if there was evidence the vaccination programme was beginning to reduce infections, she told Andrew Marr: “We are seeing declines in all age groups at the moment.

“We’re starting to see declines in the over-70s and over-80s. It’s a bit early to say whether those declines are directly related to the vaccine.

“What we would like to see is a divergence in the case rate in the over-70s and over-80s who have been vaccinated from the younger age groups, to show that they are declining faster.

“We have now hit 80 per cent of the over-80s being vaccinated and really fast numbers climbing in the under 80-year-old age group as well.

“We expect over the next two weeks to start seeing that impact of that vaccine in that age group, and also an impact on hospitalisation.”

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