England’s laxer lockdown a barrier to Wales and Scotland eliminating coronavirus, expert warns

Cardiff Queen Street. Photo by Shengpengpeng Cai on Unsplash

England’s laxer lockdown is a barrier to other parts of the UK being able to fully eliminate coronavirus, according to an expert.

Devi Sridhar, professor of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, said the UK Government was allowing coronavirus to “run through” the English population.

That meant that the “zero-Covid strategy” adopted in Scotland was made more difficult, she told the Financial Times.

“I don’t think we’ll ever get to effective elimination if we have an open land border with a place that doesn’t have a similar policy,” said Prof Sridhar, who is a member of a group advising the Scottish government on Covid-19.

Mark Drakeford, first minister of Wales, has also suggested that fully curbing coronavirus in the country could be impossible if England took a different approach.

“Whilst we are working to eliminate the virus, the nature of our porous border with England means we are reliant on our neighbours doing the same,” he said.

 

‘Lurking’

Last week Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price called on the Welsh Government to “eradicate” the virus, as other nations such as New Zealand, Greece, Slovenia, Austria and Norway were on course to do.

Mr Price said a Covid free Wales was a “realistic aspiration” and the “surest way” to avoid a second wave.

However, Wales is moving forward with the relaxation of the ‘stay local’ rule today, meaning that visitors will be able to travel within Wales and also cross more than five miles over the border from England.

Meanwhile, England has eased the lockdown at a faster pace, reopening pubs and hairdressers on Saturday despite the need for a local lockdown in the city of Leicester.

Prof Sridhar told the Financial Times that effectively eliminating coronavirus would require extending lockdown measures in the short term and indefinite controls on visitors from abroad.

But she said success would allow a far greater easing of domestic restrictions and a return to normal life for vulnerable groups currently enduring shielding policies.

“If you open too early and the virus is still circulating, then you just have to shut down again,” Prof Sridhar said. “It’s always going to be a lurking threat.”

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