Covid rule relaxations 'clear as mud' says SAGE professor

17 May 2021, 17:30 | Updated: 17 May 2021, 17:35

By Tim Dodd

Relaxations to Covid rules in England today are as clear as 'mud' Professor Stephen Reicher has told LBC, amid Government advice to be cautious due to the Indian variant.

The comments come as England sees the next stage of lockdown relaxation today, with the resumption of some international travel, indoor dining and entertainment, and larger social gatherings.

Despite this, Boris Johnson has called for a 'heavy dose of caution' as lockdown is eased, saying: "I urge everyone to be cautious and take responsibility when enjoying new freedoms today in order to keep the virus at bay."

Eddie began by asking Professor Stephen Reicher: "How clear do you think the advice to us all is today?"

He replied: "The word mud comes to mind. We've been told you can do this but don't do this, we've been told pubs are open, flights are going, but don't go on them.

"To be fair, the reason why this situation is so complicated is we're in a situation of real uncertainty. For instance, we know that the Indian variant is more transmissible. We don't know how much more transmissible, but we do know that if it was 30-40% more transmissible there is a danger that we would have a spike in hospitalisations which is as bad as we had in January.

FOLLOW LIVE: Hancock: Vaccines 'effective' at tackling India variant but cases are on the rise

"The [Government's] judgement call is much more a matter of morality, of politics, than it is about science at this stage."

On the apparent contradictions in Government messaging, Eddie said: "Isn't it sensible to say to people this is what you're allowed to do, here are the potential risks, we'd like you to be cautious and careful. Isn't this half decent advice for this difficult time?"

Professor Stephen Reicher said: "One of the problems, and what makes it even more difficult is that laws and regulations can't be separated from the messaging, they are the messaging. For instance, when you go back to the debates we were having about masks last year, the problem was when the Government said you don't have to wear a mask but it's probably a good idea, people said - if it was that serious we'd have to do it.

"And again, in terms of holidays not everybody listens to the news or what politicians say. What they see is what the regulations are doing - so to open flights to all sorts of places sends a far stronger message than all the caveats you put around it.

"And that's the real danger. If you allow flights, open up the pubs, allow people to go cinemas - you see that everyday every time you pass a cinema or bar, you don't hear the statements which qualify that and say 'be careful'."

Explained: All you need to know about England's Covid rules from Monday

Explained: Scotland lockdown measures relaxed on 17 May - all you need to know

Explained: Six people can meet inside pubs and restaurants in Wales from May 17

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