Coronavirus can be eradicated from UK by CHRISTMAS if contact tracing works, says expert – The Sun

CORONAVIRUS could be eradicated in the UK by Christmas, one of the country's top microbiologists said.

Professor Hugh Pennington said if mass testing and contact tracing was ramped up Britain could be clear of COVID-19 by the holiday season.

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Emeritus Professor Pennington, from Aberdeen University, said the countries that have been rigorous in their efforts to trace new cases have been the most successful in flattening infection numbers – the UK could even get rid of coronavirus entirely by the end of the year.

"If we do a lot more testing and contact tracing by Christmas we could get it eradicated in the UK.

"That is what has happened in China and South Korea and New Zealand look like they have got there too."

"We could get this down to zero – or near zero – by Christmas. If China can do it we can."

The Government is trialling a contact tracing app in the Isle of Wight, with plans to roll it out to the rest of the country.

Professor Pennington said the UK should have focused on tracing new cases from the start of the outbreak.

He said: "I would give the UK and Scottish governments five out of ten over the way they have handled this.

"The big mistake was on March 12 when they decided the policy was to just flatten the curve and give up mass testing and contact tracing.

"The policy was taken, it seems to me, because of a lack of testing capacity and it was wrong. I think it was a bad policy judgement.

"They could have used university labs, more NHS labs and others much sooner."
Boris Johnson and Public Health England faced furious criticism in March for failing to utilise private companies' capacity earlier – both in terms of testing and personal protective kit.

We could get this down to zero – or near zero – by Christmas. If China can do it we can.

Professor Pennington said the levels of new cases in the UK needed to be ten times lower to make a meaningful difference.

Yesterday there were 6,111 new cases of the virus – but the Government has been quick to explain case numbers are higher because of higher numbers of testing.

Professor Pennington said: "At the moment we are past the peak, but not on a significantly downward trend, the virus is at a sort of a plateau just below the peak."

He said one of the biggest problems facing the UK over the next few months would be people coming into the country.

Heathrow Airport are currently trialing thermal imaging cameras to check passengers for coronavirus.

Heathrow boss John Holland-Kaye said yesterday the UK needed to work on an international "common standard" of coronavirus screening to allow the aviation sector to get back on its feet – and to keep new cases out.

But Professor Pennington was not convinced screening measures were enough.

He said: "I am sceptical this will work well enough because you will miss half of those infected because of the (incubation) period of the virus when people may not be showing symptoms."

And he added: "We also can't wait for a vaccine. We don't know if we will get a successful vaccine and anybody who says we will is wrong.

"We are quite a long way from getting this (covid-19) really under control. I don't think we are anywhere close."


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