‘Dangerous moment’ as England eases lockdown restrictions, says medical chief

Britain is facing a "very dangerous moment" with the easing of lockdown restrictions, the deputy chief medical officer has said after a growing number of experts questioned the relaxation of rules.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam called for people to show restraint as shutdown measures are eased in England from Monday.

He told the daily Downing Street press conference that the Government and the public had a "dual responsibility" to prevent a second wave of the virus, adding: "I believe this is also a very dangerous moment. We have to get this right."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced this week that from Monday in England, friends and family can meet in parks and gardens in socially distanced groups of six.

But as people flocked to beaches and beauty spots in the sweltering heat over the weekend, Professor Peter Horby, of the University of Oxford, joined scientists Sir Jeremy Farrar and Professor John Edmunds, all members of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), to warn that ministers are taking risks.

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A couple play cards as people enjoy the sunny weather in Shoreditch Park in London on May 30, 2020, ahead of the coming into force of the first significant easing of Britain's lockdown measures during the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. - Britain's Prime Minister has set out a gradual easing of lockdown measures in England, with socially distanced groups of six friends and families allowed to meet in parks and gardens from June 1. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images)
BRIGHTON, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 30: People enjoy the hot sunny weather on Brighton Beach on May 30, 2020 in Brighton, United Kingdom. The British government continues to ease the coronavirus lockdown by announcing schools will open to reception year pupils plus years one and six from June 1st. Open-air markets and car showrooms can also open from the same date. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
SHOREHAM, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 30: People enjoy the hot sunny weather on May 30, 2020 in Shoreham, United Kingdom. The British government continues to ease the coronavirus lockdown by announcing schools will open to reception year pupils plus years one and six from June 1st. Open-air markets and car showrooms can also open from the same date. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
BRIGHTON, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 30: People enjoy the hot sunny weather on Brighton Beach on May 30, 2020 in Brighton, United Kingdom. The British government continues to ease the coronavirus lockdown by announcing schools will open to reception year pupils plus years one and six from June 1st. Open-air markets and car showrooms can also open from the same date. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
BRIGHTON, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 30: People enjoy the hot sunny weather on Brighton Beach on May 30, 2020 in Brighton, United Kingdom. The British government continues to ease the coronavirus lockdown by announcing schools will open to reception year pupils plus years one and six from June 1st. Open-air markets and car showrooms can also open from the same date. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
People play with a football as they enjoy the sunny weather in Shoreditch Park in London on May 30, 2020, ahead of the coming into force of the first significant easing of Britain's lockdown measures during the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. - Britain's Prime Minister has set out a gradual easing of lockdown measures in England, with socially distanced groups of six friends and families allowed to meet in parks and gardens from June 1. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images)
Sun seekers sit together on a bench as they enjoy the warm weather at Ruislip Lido in west London on May 30, 2020, as lockdown measures are eased during the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. - Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson has set out a gradual easing of lockdown measures in England, with socially distanced groups of six friends and families allowed to meet in parks and gardens from June 1. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP) (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
A woman reads as people enjoy the sunny weather in Shoreditch Park in London on May 30, 2020, ahead of the coming into force of the first significant easing of Britain's lockdown measures during the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. - Britain's Prime Minister has set out a gradual easing of lockdown measures in England, with socially distanced groups of six friends and families allowed to meet in parks and gardens from June 1. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images)
30 May 2020, Lower Saxony, Hooksiel: Several sailboats are moored in the old harbour of the village. At Whitsun, numerous holidaymakers are expected at the coast of Lower Saxony and the islands. Photo: Hauke-Christian Dittrich/dpa (Photo by Hauke-Christian Dittrich/picture alliance via Getty Images)
People enjoying the good weather in Greenwich Park, south London, as the public are being reminded to practice social distancing following the relaxation of lockdown restrictions. (Photo by Dominic Lipinski/PA Images via Getty Images)
Swans and their eight cygnets swim on the Grand Canal in Athy, Co Kildare. (Photo by Niall Carson/PA Images via Getty Images)
A man jumps off a rock as sunbathers enjoy the sunny weather on Boscombe beach in Bournemouth, southern England on May 30, 2020, ahead of the coming into force of the first significant easing of Britain's lockdown measures during the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. - Britain's Prime Minister has set out a gradual easing of lockdown measures in England, with socially distanced groups of six friends and families allowed to meet in parks and gardens from June 1. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP) (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)
A woman sunbathes in the good weather at the window of her tenement flat in Edinburgh, as the public are being reminded to practice social distancing following the relaxation of lockdown restrictions. (Photo by Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images)
People sunbathe and exercise in the good weather in The Meadows, Edinburgh, as the public are being reminded to practice social distancing following the relaxation of lockdown restrictions. (Photo by Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images)
LOCH LOMOND, SCOTLAND - MAY 30: Members of the public enjoy the good weather, following Thursday’s announcement by Scottish Government of the easing the lockdown on May 30, 2020 in Loch Lomond, Scotland.Starting May 29, Scotland allowed groups of eight, from only two different households, to meet in parks or gardens. Meanwhile in England, groups of six from multiple different households can meet in public as of June 1. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Sunbathers enjoy the sunny weather on Boscombe beach in Bournemouth, southern England on May 30, 2020, ahead of the coming into force of the first significant easing of Britain's lockdown measures during the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. - Britain's Prime Minister has set out a gradual easing of lockdown measures in England, with socially distanced groups of six friends and families allowed to meet in parks and gardens from June 1. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP) (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)
LOCH LOMOND, SCOTLAND - MAY 30: Members of the public ride jet skis whilst enjoying the good weather, following Thursday’s announcement by Scottish Government of the easing the lockdown on May 30, 2020 in Loch Lomond, Scotland.Starting May 29, Scotland allowed groups of eight, from only two different households, to meet in parks or gardens. Meanwhile in England, groups of six from multiple different households can meet in public as of June 1. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Sunbathers enjoy the sunny weather on Boscombe beach in Bournemouth, southern England on May 30, 2020, ahead of the coming into force of the first significant easing of Britain's lockdown measures during the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. - Britain's Prime Minister has set out a gradual easing of lockdown measures in England, with socially distanced groups of six friends and families allowed to meet in parks and gardens from June 1. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP) (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)
People enjoying the good weather on the beach at Durdle Door, near Lulworth in Dorset, as the public are being reminded to practice social distancing following the relaxation of lockdown restrictions. (Photo by Andrew Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images)
Sunbathers enjoy the sunny weather on Boscombe beach in Bournemouth, south England on May 30, 2020, as lockdown measures are eased during the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. - Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson has set out a gradual easing of lockdown measures in England, with socially distanced groups of six friends and families allowed to meet in parks and gardens from June 1. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP) (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)
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Prof Van-Tam said scientific opinions "always vary to some extent", and told the press conference that the lockdown easing must go "painstakingly" slowly.

He added: "This is a dual responsibility here of Government to go slowly and carefully and to take the advice from the scientists.

"Of the scientists, to watch this whole thing very closely over the next few weeks.

"And, of the public in general to actually follow the guidance.

"Don't tear the pants out of it, and don't go further than the guidance actually says."

The comments came as Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden announced that elite sport events would begin again next week behind closed doors.

Declaring that "football is coming back", Mr Dowden said: "Football, tennis, horseracing, Formula 1, cricket, golf, rugby, snooker and others are all set to return to our screens shortly.

"I'm glad to confirm today that a third of matches to finish the season will now be free to view including the Liverpool v Everton derby and live Premier League football will be on the BBC for the first time in its history."

Asked for his response to experts who have expressed concern the lockdown is being eased too quickly in England, Mr Dowden said it must be remembered there are more than 50 scientists in Sage "all of whom will have their different perspectives".

He told the daily briefing that scientists are "absolutely right to urge caution".

But Professor Robert West, a participant in the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours (SPI-B) which advises Sage, emphasised on Saturday that some 8,000 infections and 400 deaths a day are still occurring.

Speaking in a personal capacity, he told the PA news agency: "Put all this together and you have a huge risk, and it's not just me saying that, that there will be an increase in infection rates.

"Because we don't have track and trace in place, we won't know whether this easing of the lockdown has caused (an) increase in infections for some time, by which time it will be well under way, the second peak will be well under way.

"The Government is not taking its responsibilities for political leadership seriously.

"This should not be treated as a political crisis but as a health crisis, if you treat it as a political crisis it's all about managing your reputation, if you treat it as a health crisis it's about saving lives."

When asked whether he believes news about the PM's key adviser Dominic Cummings travelling from London to Durham during the full lockdown would have an impact on people sticking to the latest rules, the UCL scientist said: "Trust in authority telling you to do things is very important when it comes to people adhering to those rules.

"When people see something like the Cummings affair... that's not a recipe for trust."

Daily coronavirus tests in the UK
(PA Graphics)

In answer to a question at the briefing about Dominic Cummings, Professor Van-Tam said: "In my opinion the rules are clear and they have always been clear.

In my opinion they are for the benefit of all.

"In my opinion they apply to all."

The easing of England's lockdown will also signal the reopening of schools to allow more students to return, while outdoor retailers and car showrooms are also able to reopen.

Asked if he agrees it is too soon to ease more of the lockdown, Prof Horby told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Actually, I do. We have still got 8,000 cases a day."

He added that although measures taken so far "have been very successful in... decreasing the numbers", it is vital "we don't lose control again".

He said one of the key issues is the NHS Test and Trace system, which has been rolled out across England with the help of 25,000 contact tracers.

But the programme will not be operational at a local level until the end of next month, while an accompanying app is delayed by several weeks.

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A man wearing a face mask stands on Oxford Street in heatwave conditions in London, England, on June 25, 2020. Temperatures rose to 33C in parts of London today, in what has been one of the UK's hottest days of the year so far. Central London was nonetheless busy with shoppers this afternoon as the retail sector mounts its comeback after coronavirus lockdown restrictions on non-essential shops were eased at the beginning of last week. Among retailers, confidence is reportedly low that recovery will be swift, however, with a survey from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) today revealing fears of reduced consumer demand as well as operational challenges such as staff absences and transport difficulties. (Photo by David Cliff/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
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A hand-made sign alongside the A82 road in Glencoe, Highlands, as Scotland moves into the second phase of its four-step plan to ease out of lockdown.
Hand-made signs warning people to consider the local community alongside the road in Ballachulish in the Highlands as Scotland moves into the second phase of its four-step plan to ease out of lockdown.
Operations supervisor Dave Warren sprays social distance measure signs on the ground in the new World of Dinosaurs attraction explaining social distancing measures at Blair Drummond Safari Park near Stirling where staff are preparing to open the attraction on June 29 as part of Scotland's phased release of the coronavirus pandemic lockdown.
Operations supervisor Dave Warren cleans hand rails at the sea lion pool explaining social distancing measures at Blair Drummond Safari Park near Stirling where staff are preparing to open the attraction on June 29 as part of Scotland's phased release of the coronavirus pandemic lockdown.
Operations supervisor Dave Warren installs signs in the rhino yard explaining social distancing measures at Blair Drummond Safari Park near Stirling where staff are preparing to open the attraction on June 29 as part of Scotland's phased release of the coronavirus pandemic lockdown.
A coronavirus prevention sign in Bridlington, East Yorkshire, as Thursday could be the UK's hottest day of the year with scorching temperatures forecast to rise even further.
A woman wearing PPE (personal protective equipment), of a face mask or covering as a precautionary measure against spreading COVID-19, arrives on the beach in the sea in Southend on Sea, south east England, on June 24, 2020. - Just days after lockdown ended and European travel restrictions were lifted, many were staying home in the cool Tuesday as a heatwave hit the continent with temperatures touching 40 degrees Celcius. Britain was bracing for a flood of visitors to its beaches with the heatwave expected to last until Friday and temperatures set to climb into the mid-30s in the south and centre of the country. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP) (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)
PORTHCAWL, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 24: An aerial drone camera view of Sandy Bay beach and Coney Beach pleasure park which remains closed due to coronavirus restrictions as the Met Office warn temperatures could reach 34 degrees this week on June 24, 2020 in Porthcawl, United Kingdom. The First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford has announced that all non-essential shops will be allowed to open their doors again in Wales from Monday but people will be asked to continue to "stay local" with five miles given as guidance until July 6. (Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)
An employee at Marwell Zoo in Hampshire paints social distancing markers in the shape of a paw print outside the Amur Tigers enclosure, as the zoo prepares to reopen to the public from Monday June 29, as further coronavirus lockdown restrictions are lifted in England. (Photo by Andrew Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images)
Crowds of people gather in Woolton Village, Liverpool and drink alcohol served from local food outlets as further coronavirus lockdown restrictions are lifted in England.
People enjoying the weather on the beach in Bournemouth as cruise liner docked in the background following the Coronavirus outbreak.
AFC Bournemouth substitutes stand for a minute's silence in memory of the victims of the coronavirus before the Premier League match at the Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth.
General view of empty walkway towards the Amex Stadium ahead of the game against Arsenal during the Premier League match back following the Coronavirus outbreak.
Players and officials stand for a minute's silence in memory of the victims of the coronavirus before the Premier League match at the London Stadium.
Steven Butterly from Azurablu Scotland Ltd during an electrostatic disinfection clean which follows a deep clean at Ross Sales and Lettings in Glasgow. (Photo by Andrew Milligan/PA Images via Getty Images)
A customer enters a branch of Greggs in Winchester, Hampshire, as the bakery chain reopens 800 stores across the UK following the easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions. (Photo by Andrew Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images)
Primark staff in the Belfast city centre store as it opens its doors to customers for the first time since coronavirus lockdown restrictions were imposed in March. (Photo by Brian Lawless/PA Images via Getty Images)
A customer queues outside Primark in Belfast as some non-essential shops in Northern Ireland open their doors to customers for the first time since coronavirus lockdown restrictions were imposed in March. (Photo by Brian Lawless/PA Images via Getty Images)
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JUNE 17: Enda Stevens of Sheffield United during the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Sheffield United at Villa Park on June 17, 2020 in Birmingham, United Kingdom. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)
A general view shows jockeys returning from the unplaced finishers on day two of the Royal Ascot horse racing meet, in Ascot, west of London, on June 17, 2020, which is taking place behind 'closed doors' due to the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst / POOL / AFP) (Photo by ALAN CROWHURST/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
A sign reminding people that the Toilets are hangs at the Kenilworth Castle fence during its reopening. Six sites managed by the English Heritage have reopened to the public this week after closing amid the coronavirus outbreak. Kenilworth Castle and Elizabethan Gardens in Warwickshire are some of the six sites that have adopted a one way system around the whole site, with separate entrance and exit points, along with social distancing markers. (Photo by Keith Mayhew / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Frankie Dettori is seen in the Queen's silks ahead of the Hampton Court Stakes on day two of the Royal Ascot horse racing meet, in Ascot, west of London, on June 17, 2020, which is taking place behind 'closed doors' due to the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Edward Whitaker / POOL / AFP) (Photo by EDWARD WHITAKER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Stewards at a gate entering Villa Park in Birmingham as Aston Villa prepare play Sheffield United in the first Premier League match back following the Coronavirus outbreak. (Photo by David Davies/PA Images via Getty Images)
FALMOUTH, ENGLAND - JUNE 17: Lee McIntyre of Jam vinyl records and coffee shop poses for the photographer on June 17, 2020 in Falmouth, Cornwall, United Kingdom. The British government have relaxed coronavirus lockdown laws significantly from Monday June 15, allowing zoos, safari parks and non-essential shops to open to visitors. Places of worship will allow individual prayers and protective facemasks become mandatory on public transport. (Photo by Hugh R Hastings/Getty Images)
FALMOUTH, ENGLAND - JUNE 17: Maddy Amos of the Falmouth Bookseller poses for the photographer on June 17, 2020 in Falmouth, Cornwall, United Kingdom. The British government have relaxed coronavirus lockdown laws significantly from Monday June 15, allowing zoos, safari parks and non-essential shops to open to visitors. Places of worship will allow individual prayers and protective facemasks become mandatory on public transport. (Photo by Hugh R Hastings/Getty Images)
In the 24hrs that a further 38 died from Coronavirus, bringing the total to 41,736, a further easing of the UKs Covid pandemic lockdown restrictions took place with many high street shops today being allowed to re-open after three months of forced closure. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, wanting to stimulate the economy, has urged people to "shop with confidence" and long queues formed outside the main brands. But unlike on public transport, face coverings are not compulsory so shop floors and shopping practices have had to be adapted to ensure customers social distances, amid fears of a second infection wave. A social distance sign advising on the 2 metre rule outside the John Lewis department store on Oxford Street, on 15th June 2020, in London, England. (Photo by Richard Baker / In Pictures via Getty Images)
EASTLEIGH, UNITED KINGDOM - 2020/06/15: An employee at Top Gift Mobile stall wears a face shield and mask as preventive measure while working. (Photo by Dawn Fletcher-Park/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
In the 24hrs that a further 38 died from Coronavirus, bringing the total to 41,736, a further easing of the UKs Covid pandemic lockdown restrictions took place with many high street shops today being allowed to re-open after three months of forced closure. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, wanting to stimulate the economy, has urged people to "shop with confidence" and long queues formed outside the main brands. But unlike on public transport, face coverings are not compulsory so shop floors and shopping practices have had to be adapted to ensure customers social distances, amid fears of a second infection wave. A security lady with blue gloves stands at an exit-only door and shows shoppers where to queue 2 metres apart outside Selfridges on Oxford Street, on 15th June 2020, in London, England. (Photo by Richard Baker / In Pictures via Getty Images)
In the 24hrs that a further 38 died from Coronavirus, bringing the total to 41,736, a further easing of the UKs Covid pandemic lockdown restrictions took place with many high street shops today being allowed to re-open after three months of forced closure. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, wanting to stimulate the economy, has urged people to "shop with confidence" and long queues formed outside the main brands. But unlike on public transport, face coverings are not compulsory so shop floors and shopping practices have had to be adapted to ensure customers social distances, amid fears of a second infection wave. Apple employees wait for shoppers in a queue in Hannover Street to have their forehead temperatures taken with a Thermo Flash infrared no-contact thermometer before being allowed into the Apple Store around the corner in Regent Street, on 15th June 2020, in London, England. (Photo by Richard Baker / In Pictures via Getty Images)
Hundreds of shoppers stand in line ahead of the store opening at Primark in Birmingham as non-essential shops in England open their doors to customers for the first time since coronavirus lockdown restrictions were imposed in March. (Photo by Jacob King/PA Images via Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JUN 14, 2020 - Coronavirus: social distancing signs in Wood Green, non essential shops are allowed to open from tomorrow 15th June- PHOTOGRAPH BY Matthew Chattle / Barcroft Studios / Future Publishing (Photo credit should read Matthew Chattle/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 14: Indoor Stall Holders prepare to open their shops for tomorrow, at Camden Market on June 14, 2020 in London, UK .As the British government further relaxes Covid-19 lockdown measures in England, this week sees preparations being made to open non-essential stores and Transport for London handing out face masks to commuters. International travelers arriving in the UK will face a 14-day quarantine period. (Photo by Jo Hale/Getty Images)
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Prof Horby added: "We are entering a period where there is a risk of increasing transmission, but we don't yet have that safety net fully in place."

Another Sage member, Professor Calum Semple, insisted that a "brave" political decision had been taken on schools reopening "were everything normal", but cautioned that high levels of transmission were still being seen, according to the BBC.

Sir Jeremy also said the track and trace system needs to be "fully working" before measures are eased, warning the virus is still spreading "too fast to lift lockdown in England".

In Scotland, people can now meet others from one other household at a time as long as it is outdoors, but social distancing should continue and groups must be a maximum of eight people.

People in Wales will be allowed to meet up with others outdoors from Monday.

In Northern Ireland, more retailers can open and small outdoor weddings will receive the go-ahead from June 8 if the coronavirus infection rate remains under control.

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