Professor Mark Woolhouse told Times Radio: “The concern at the moment is that the trajectory of hospitalisations and deaths in the UK is upwards, fairly slowly… and we want to see what that trend does.
“It’s widely accepted the number of cases would increase, we’ve known this would happen when we unlocked for many months now, we’d expect it…. so ‘dangerous, unethical experiment’ seems to be a very inaccurate description of what’s going on.
“This is unprecedented, it’s not an experiment but it’s an unprecedented situation because we’ve got a new pandemic here and the UK is in a particularly interesting position because we have such a successful vaccine programme.”
Prof Woolhouse, who advises government in both England & Scotland, said he expected all countries to experience an “exit wave” of coronavirus when they came to unlock fully.
He also said the so-called ‘freedom day’ was “somewhat naive” and that England should copy Scotland in keeping some infection prevention measures in place from July 19.
“What I have been concerned about for many months is that if the unlocking really is a big release… then there’s potential for a very large wave indeed,” he added.
“I was always concerned, and I’ve said so many times, that this idea that it would be a final ‘freedom day’ was, I have to say, somewhat naive.
“The public health expectation was that we would need additional measures to keep the rate of increase of cases under control.”
Prof Woolhouse added the insistence by the Government that unlocking would be irreversible “painted (them) into both a political and public health corner” should circumstances change.
Asked about whether full lockdown easing could lead to the emergence of a new more dangerous coronavirus variant, Prof Woolhouse said: “It could be… but there are literally hundreds of variants around the world.
“We don’t know where the next variant of concern, one that will actually threaten public health, will come from.
“There’s absolutely no guarantee it will come from the UK. This is an international issue, not a UK one.”