Mass deaths and hospitalisations caused by the coronavirus are now “history”, a leading professor has said, after Boris Johnson decided not to impose new restrictions in England before the new year.
Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at the University of Oxford, said that the prime minister’s judgment was “probably fine” because the worst of Covid-19 was over.
The number of people in hospital in England is less than half it was at this time last year, despite there being three times as many cases, which suggests that the Omicron variant is significantly less likely to cause serious illness.
The optimistic data persuaded Johnson not to tighten restrictions before the end of the year, putting England as an outlier compared with Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, which have all introduced tougher restrictions in the past days.
Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, said that the virus would eventually be regarded as a cause of the common cold and would not warrant the reporting of daily case numbers.
He told BBC Breakfast: “Covid is only one virus of a family of coronaviruses, and the other coronaviruses throw off new variants typically every year or so, and that’s almost certainly what’s going to happen with Covid — it will become effectively just another cause of the common cold.
“We’re not going to be doing daily reporting on cases of the different causes of the common cold going forward, of which Covid is one. So personally, I think it would be unlikely that we are going to do anything like that whilst we’re still coping with Omicron, but once we’re past Easter, perhaps, then maybe we should start to look at scaling back, depending on, of course, what the disease is at that time.”
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