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Death sentence Expert warns Stormont not to copy Boris Johnson's ‘crazy’ virus strategy

"The next variant, and there will be one, will be even more dangerous and it is inevitable that at some stage we will be facing a strain that is resistant to the vaccine"

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Dr Gabriel Scally. Photo by Frank McGrath

Dr Gabriel Scally. Photo by Frank McGrath

Dr Gabriel Scally. Photo by Frank McGrath

Lifting Covid restrictions would be like passing a death sentence on hundreds of people, Stormont has been warned.

Leading epidemiologist Professor Gabriel Scally, a member of the government-appointed independent advisory body SAGE, said the Executive must resist the temptation to follow England’s example and keep the lid on the virus.

In a damning assessment of Boris Johnson’s decision to throw open the doors, he said we are already in the throes of a deadly fourth wave.

And he added that it isn’t too late for North and South to adopt an all-Ireland strategy to tackle the pandemic.

His comments come weeks after hotels and holiday accommodation were swamped, with visitors from south of the border accounting for 80 per cent of bookings as restrictions eased here but remain in place in the South.

The Belfast-born expert said he was alarmed at the spread of the Delta variant.

“Look where we were 12 months ago,” he said. “Northern Ireland deaths were down to zero, it was virtually zero in the south, and now a year on we are in a far worse position.”

He said easing restrictions in the face of a surging virus was “crazy”.

“We’ve had the Kent variant, Delta and Beta – each one has been more dangerous than the previous one. The next variant, and there will be one, will be even more dangerous and it is inevitable that at some stage we will be facing a strain that is resistant to the vaccine.

“We need to stick with the restrictions at least until the population has been vaccinated.”

He called for a rigorous public health information scheme to encourage people who have not taken the jab to do so.

“And of course there is long Covid which the government doesn’t want to talk about, but which is something those who have refused the jab need to be aware of.”

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He also questioned the refusal in the UK not to vaccinate children when many nations across the world are inoculating their young people.

“What the British government is doing is uniquely dangerous,” he said.

“I know of no episode in history where a government has willingly aided and abetted the spread of a dangerous infectious disease among its own population. History is being made.

“The government of the United Kingdom seems to actually want people to catch Covid-19 in the summer, rather than in the autumn and winter. Ministers reason that the understaffed and underfunded NHS will be in major trouble over the winter.

“To ‘go now’ with the removal of all legal restrictions, thus producing an even higher level of infections, appears to be regarded as the right thing to do as it will reduce the inevitable problems later this year.”

He said it was a return to the notion of ‘herd immunity’ where the virus is allowed to course through the population in the hope we develop a natural immunity.

“It is an extraordinary policy. In the view of much of the rest of the world, and most of the medical organisations in the UK, there is no possibility that this will be anything other than yet another failure that will cost lives and livelihoods.”

He said the UK, now with one of the highest infection rates on the planet, is in danger of becoming a global pariah.

“The fact the United States with all its problems has told its citizens not to travel to the UK, tells its own story.”

He said the government had constantly sought the silver bullet of a technological intervention that would curb the virus and enable a rapid return to full economic activity while abandoning measures like an efficient track and trace system.

“The minimal success of mobile phone apps, antibody testing, lateral flow tests and the expensive test and trace system (£37bn) have been largely forgotten in the enthusiasm for the vaccine.”

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