South African variant could mean no international holidays until autumn, says Neil Ferguson 8 months ago

South African variant could mean no international holidays until autumn, says Neil Ferguson

The scientist, dubbed 'Professor Lockdown,' said the South African variant could affect the likelihood of holidays abroad this summer

Professor Neil Ferguson was an important figure at the beginning of the pandemic, and a key player when it came to designing the UK's response to Covid-19.

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Speaking to BBC Breakfast today, Ferguson said the South African variant of Covid-19 poses a threat to international travel.

The variant is more contagious than the original form of Covid-19, and it is more resistant to current vaccines.

South Africa suspended the roll out of the AstraZeneca recently for this reason.

"Depending what happens in other areas of the world, travel may be one of the later things to be relaxed," he said.

"But I think we... whilst not everything will be back to normal by the summer, certainly by the autumn, it will feel a lot more normal.”

Adding: "The real concern is things like the South African variant, where the vaccination programme we're currently using, whilst it would still give some protection against that (variant), the protection would be reduced,” he said.

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Ferguson commented on the deteriorating situation on the continent, after prime minister Boris Johnson this week warned that the UK could be hit by their third wave - which some say could affected the "cautious but irreversible" route out of lockdown the government promised.

On the issue, Ferguson said: ”I don't think, just because cases are rising in Europe, that necessarily throws our timetable into doubt.

“What it may do is affect planning around restrictions on international travel, how much we try and screen people coming into the country.”

The professor also touched on concerns about the length of protection current vaccines against Covid provide.

"I think the expectation is that antibodies to vaccines will also last for a reasonable period, we don't know exactly how long because obviously people haven't been vaccinated for a very long period," said Ferguson.

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"We don't yet know how long the immunity lasts from the vaccines we're giving, but natural immunity to coronavirus probably lasts a year or so, so it's entirely likely we will need to boost immunity."