’Don’t blame young people for more virus cases’ says Norwich scientist

Professor George Lomonossoff, virologist from the John Innes Centre in Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRAD

Professor George Lomonossoff, virologist from the John Innes Centre in Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

A leading virologist has criticised the government in blaming young people for the increase in coronavirus cases.

Professor George Lomonossoff, from the John Innes Centre in Norwich, was speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live after Boris Johnson’s Downing Street press conference on Wednesday regarding a change in the law for social gatherings.

On the subject of young people contributing to the rise in cases, Prof Lomonossoff said: “I don’t like the idea of blaming people. If we were encouraged to get back to normal over the summer. Eat Out to Help Out was a deliberate encouragement. Of course younger people tend to go out more and socialise more.”

He added the rise in cases showed “maybe it was too early” to relieve some of the measures.

“We have now found that out. It is a problem.”

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The Prime Minister outlined his rule of six meaning from Monday no more than six people can meet indoors or outside in England, although there are exemptions including for work places, schools, hospitality businesses and organised sporting events.

Changes are being introduced after a rise in cases from 12.5 per 100,000 to 19.7 per 100,000 in the UK in the last week - with a particular rise in infections among teenagers and people in their 20s.

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Earlier this week health secretary MP Matt Hancock warned young people not to flout social distancing adding: “Don’t kill your gran.”

MORE: Coronavirus rules: How will they affect me?Prof Lomonossoff questioned how a household in university halls of residencies would be defined as well as how groups would work in pubs.

“I’m not sure how the groups will remain separate,” he added.

The virologist said the rise in positive coronavirus cases over the past two weeks was “dramatic” adding: “It does suggest the disease is coming back.”

But the Prof hoped there would not be as many serious cases compared with the spring because people were more aware of the disease, testing would pick up cases earlier and the discovery of effective treatment.

Older people and people with underlying health conditions were also taking more precautions, Prof Lomonossoff added.

He said it was important how information from the planned extra tests, announced by Mr Johnson, was used and there was capacity.

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