Future Covid control measures should only apply to the most vulnerable, a government adviser has said.
At the beginning of the pandemic last year, the elderly and people with chronic illnesses were asked to shield at home as the nation went into lockdown.
Prof Andrew Hayward, of University College London’s Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care and a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), suggested different rules for people in different categories could return.
He told the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme: “I think generally as we move into a sort of endemic rather than a pandemic situation then the potential harm that the virus can cause at the population level is much less.
“You can’t really justify such broad population-wide control measures and we tend to target the control measures more, to those who are most vulnerable.
“And so I think not only in testing, but in all sorts of forms of control, as we move into a situation where we’re coming to live with this virus forever then we target the measures to the most vulnerable rather than having the more disruptive measures.”
Germany is to abolish free testing for asymptomatic people from Oct 11, and Prof Hayward believes the UK could follow suit.
On Tuesday, Prof Andrew Pollard, the chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) and the European Medicines Agency scientific advisory group, said herd immunity would not be possible due to the delta variant.
Prof Hayward added that we still needed to work out what “living with Covid” meant and said that only if a vaccine emerges that is 95 per cent protective against severe disease as well as infection would we “stand the chance of eradicating it”.
He said: “I think it’s a pretty distant prospect, and we need to get used to the concept that this will become what we call an endemic disease, rather than a pandemic disease so it’s a disease that’s, that’s with us all the time, probably transmits seasonally, like influenza, where we see winter endemics.”