Britain's lockdown rules may be needed until the autumn, scientists advising No10 warned today.
'Professor Lockdown' Neil Ferguson — whose grim modelling that 500,000 Britons could die unless action was taken spooked ministers into the first national shutdown last March — said the easing of curbs would be a 'gradual process'.
Asked if there could be restrictions for many months to come, he said: 'Yes, and we can't predict all of these things in advance.
'We couldn't have predicted this new variant coming up, but the new variant without doubt will make the relaxation of restrictions more difficult because it is substantially more transmissible.'
Professor Ferguson, an epidemiologist at Imperial College London and member of SAGE, added: 'It will be a gradual process to the autumn.'
Dr Susan Hopkins, one of the top officials at Public Health England (PHE), also added that England was likely going to have a 'difficult time at least until Easter'.
'Professor Lockdown' Neil Ferguson (left) — whose grim modelling that 500,000 Britons could die unless action was taken spooked ministers into the first national shutdown last March — said the easing of curbs would be a 'gradual process'. Dr Susan Hopkins (right), one of the top officials at Public Health England (PHE), also added that England was likely going to have a 'difficult time at least until Easter'
Professor Ferguson had to quit his role as a Government adviser after breaking rules to see his married lover.
It comes after it was revealed last month that Professor Ferguson was quietly allowed to continue advising the Government's scientific advisory panel.
No10 said he would no longer attend key SAGE meetings about Covid after he was caught breaking social distancing rules to meet his married lover during Britain's first lockdown.
But Downing Street confirmed in December that Professor Ferguson continued to sit on the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M) committee and the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG).
Both groups feed data into SAGE and NERVTAG was partly responsible for pushing the Government into cancelling Christmas for 16million people due to its gloomy warnings about the new mutant strain.