The expert believes that Brits will continue to wear masks long after restrictions are lifted (Image: AFP via Getty Images)
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A coronavirus expert has joined calls for the government to postpone June 21's lifting of restrictions and says an "all-or-nothing Freedom Day" is a "bad idea".
Prominent academic Sian Griffiths thinks a more gradual lifting of restrictions is a better approach – and reckons wearing masks on public transport could become permanent.
Her comments come a day after the Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the spread of the 'Indian' variant, now known as Delta, was a matter of "serious, serious concern" and indicated a four-week delay.
He is due to formally announce the final stage of his "roadmap" out of lockdown tomorrow.
Professor Griffiths, an associate director of Public Health England, said cases were rising and there was a slight uptick in hospitalisations in areas with the highest rates.
Sian Griffiths says the idea of an "all-or-nothing Freedom Day" is a bad idea
She added that while vaccination works, the NHS needs time to give second doses to all over-50s.
She told the BBC: "The public health advice would be to take it slowly and in a sustained way so we can keep up the progress we've been making.
"I think waiting a little bit longer to sustain the progress is necessary, but it may not be an all-or-nothing Freedom Day.
Fears Covid restrictions could be in place until spring 2022 as India variant surges
"I have a problem with the concept of Freedom Day. I think this could be done more gradually."
The epidemiologist co-chaired the Hong Kong inquiry into the 2003 Sars outbreak and thinks the pandemic could change people's behaviour.
She said: "Post-Sars we found many more people wearing masks more often. That may be something that the public adopts – from the public, not just from the rules and regulations of the Government.
"Maybe we should be wearing masks on public transport. Anywhere where you're in a closed environment.
"This is a virus that transmits very quickly if you're in close contact with somebody, so you may want to keep your windows open more often, ensure you have ventilation, keep some social distancing."
Meanwhile foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the impact vaccination has on hospital admission is the key test for lockdown lifting.
Dominic Raab says the impact the vaccine programme has on hospitalisations is the main test for lifting restrictions
(Image: Getty Images)
He told BBC One's The Andrew Marr show: "The crucial thing that we set out in the four tests that we set at the outset of the road map is the link between transmission of the virus, and then the variants, and hospitalisations.
"We know that we have made great progress in weakening the link between transmission and hospitalisation – which is those who are more seriously sick.
"The question is whether we have severed and broken it. We are looking at the data in real time."
He added: "The race that we are in is to get everyone up as far as we possibly can to two doses because that maximises the effectiveness (in terms) of both serious harm to people, but also we know that it is more effective in cutting the transmission."