April 12 reopening 'not particularly worrying', says virus expert

Busy Gentleman's Walk in Norwich as people are out and about enjoying the easing of the Covid restri

Busy Gentleman's Walk in Norwich as people are out and about enjoying the easing of the Covid restrictions. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

A Norfolk virus expert said the reopening of shops is not a cause for concern, as he moved to reassure those unsure about mixing in crowds.

Across the region, thousands of shoppers returned to the region's high streets for the first time in 2021, after the latest easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions on Monday, April 12.

Professor Paul Hunter, from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, said: "I think the first thing to say is we still have a long way to go to total relaxing. 

"The chance of transmission outdoors is substantially lower, around 19-fold. Meeting up and having a meal outdoors in groups of six is less likely to push the R value up too much.

"There is a risk being inside shops, but providing it doesn't get too heaving and people are still social distancing, it is probably not that big of a concern."

In Norwich, long queues were seen outside shops including Primark and Debenhams.

But the professor said they were not a huge cause for concern.

Prof Hunter said: "This step hasn't really particularly worried me. 

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"Personally I have no anxiety about having a meal out in a pub garden, that is a low risk." 

Prof Hunter said he had more concerns around the easing measures outlined in the next two stages of the roadmap in May and June. 

The virologist, who enjoyed a visit to Marks and Spencer on Monday, said: "The long and short of it is I'm not unduly worried at the moment. 

"I do believe we are going to see another wave later in the year probably. I think most of the models seem to be saying that as well, hopefully we will have many fewer cases of severe infection in relation to the number of cases of infection."

Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the UEA, believes it is the right time for increased social in

Professor Paul Hunter, from the University of East Anglia, said the reopening of shops is not a cause for concern. - Credit: Archant © 2013

For those concerned about heading out into large crowds, he said minimising contact with merchandise and shopping at quieter times were among the ways shoppers could feel safe. 

He added face coverings had value but were not guaranteed protection.

Prof Hunter said: "When you go shopping know what you are going for in advance and don't browse. Decide what you want in advance, go and buy it so you are in and out more urgently than you are normally. 

"If you want to go a shop and it's heaving try and come back another time."

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