There will be good and bad pressures on the UK’s Covid R number over the coming weeks, likely including travel, as the country continues to emerge from months of lockdown, deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam has said.
LBC’s Ben Kentish asked health secretary Matt Hancock, who led the government’s latest Covid briefing on Wednesday (28 April), what the latest data on the effectiveness of vaccines on known variants of Covid-19 meant for international travel this summer.
Hancock said the UK was "on track" to proceed with step three of the government’s plans to ease the country’s Covid restrictions on 17 May, which is also the "at the very earliest" date for a resumption of international travel.
Asked by Hancock to comment further, Van-Tam said: "I think we are moving at pace and essentially following a good dry line now. But I don’t want us to run into any wet patches, that is going to be really critical in the next few weeks. There are going to be good pressures on R, and bad pressures on R, in the next few weeks.
"Obviously, with the 17 May planned easements, and 21 June planned easements, these will have a propensity – as we mix more and more normally – to increase R. At the same time, we hope the continued vaccine rollout, if it continues as well as it has started, will put downward pressure on R.
"So those are competing forces that are at play in the next few weeks, for all the right reasons."
He added: "So I want us to continue at pace, but with caution, and I can’t emphasise how important the vaccine programme continues to be. We are down to 42-year-olds, but we need to go much further and continue that high uptake to put is in a really sustainably safe place."
Hancock added: "The challenges around international travel are essentially around uncertainty, and that’s why policymaking around international travel is so difficult.
"We need to protect the progress we have made through a combination of the robust measures we have in place at the border and booster jabs later in the year. That is all about protecting the progress made so far."