No evidence that easing lockdown will spark second spike – Prof Hugh Pennington

A premature ending of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions might not result in a second spike of infections from the virus, leading expert Professor Hugh Pennington has told the Scottish Parliament.

In a letter to MSPs on Holyrood’s Health Committee, the University of Aberdeen emeritus professor said he has seen “no evidence” to suggest there could be a rise in cases “more virulent than the one we have endured”.

He said while previous flu pandemics have seen second waves of infection more deadly than the initial outbreak, this may not be the case for coronavirus.

He said: “In my opinion the more we learn about Covid-19, the more the differences with influenza virus become apparent.”

Professor Hugh Pennington
Professor Hugh Pennington

Speaking of the potential for a second spike, he added: “It is far more likely that our situation would resemble that in Singapore, where infections would continue to occur with cases numbers declining but at a slower pace than if controls had been maintained.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce some easing of the current lockdown restrictions on Sunday.

But in Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has insisted this week that progress against coronavirus is still too fragile for any changes to be made.

Prof Pennington said: “No second waves of Covid-19 infections have occurred in China, South Korea or New Zealand, countries in which local virus transmission is currently close to zero.

“Even in Singapore, where transmission controls have not so far led to this outcome, due mostly to outbreaks in migrant worker dormitories, there has been no second wave of cases. A smart phone app to assist in virus control was introduced in Singapore on March 20.”

He also suggested that within Scotland, residents in Orkney and the Western Isles could be “freed earlier from social distancing and lockdown than mainland communities”.

Last week we heard from Professor Hugh Pennington of @aberdeenuni on #coronavirus#COVID19. We received follow-up information from him today – you can read it here: and here's the official report of what he said last week:

— Health and Sport Committee (@SP_HealthSport) May 6, 2020

Prof Pennington said this is because “they have had few Covid-19 cases”, with no-one in hospital in Orkney since April 5 and since April 2 in the Western Isles.

He added that the islands also have “excellent public health systems, and they control travel from the mainland very significantly, thus reducing the risk of virus importation”.

He went on to suggest the islands could “also serve as places to evaluate any smart phone apps” being used to help control the spread of the disease.

His letter to MSPs comes after he gave evidence to the committee, during which he urged the Scottish Government to “test, test, test” to eradicate coronavirus.