Professor Neil Ferguson is at it again. He predicts that a full lockdown will not be necessary this winter, but that the reintroduction of some forms of restrictions will be, warning that “we have currently higher levels of infection in the community than we’ve almost ever had during the pandemic”. The Times has the story.

The Imperial College scientist said that there was no “reason to panic” but urged people to be cautious about social contact.

He said it was “critical we accelerate the booster programme” with millions of eligible older people yet to have a top-up jab despite concerns about waning immunity.

Last year hospital admissions were doubling every 10 days. At present, the rate is about five weeks and some believe outbreaks in schools will burn out before then, causing cases to fall again.

Ferguson told Today on BBC Radio 4: “I think we need to be on the case, and we do need to prioritise the [booster] vaccination programme but we’re not in the same position as last year.”

He added: “I don’t think we’re looking at another lockdown… the worst case here are demands on the NHS… it’s very unlikely we’ll see anything like the levels of deaths we saw last year, for instance.

“Coming into the winter, there may be a plan B which needs to be implemented, which involves some rolling back of measures, but I doubt that we’ll ever get close to the lockdown we were in in January of this year.”

The Government’s official ‘Plan B’ involves the return of working from home and compulsory masks, plus the introduction of vaccine passports. Ministers have been confident that this will not be needed but concern has been mounting as cases rise towards 50,000 a day.

“People need to be aware that we have currently higher levels of infection in the community than we’ve almost ever had during the pandemic – for the last three or four months we’ve been up at well over 1% of the population infected at any point in time,” Ferguson said.

He said the Government was “very clear that it wanted to move away from social distancing measures, but it’s notable, clearly, that most western European countries have kept in place more control measures, vaccine mandates, mask-wearing mandates, and tend to have lower case numbers and certainly not case numbers which are going up as fast as we’ve got”.

Professor Paul Hunter, of the University of East Anglia, said he was not “overly worried” by case numbers, pointing out: “We’re doing far more testing of children than most or all European countries and at least 50% of our cases are in children, mostly teenagers.” …

Modellers are finding it increasingly difficult to know what will happen next, given huge uncertainties about the number of unvaccinated people, how fast immunity wanes and how people will behave over the winter.

Worth reading in full.