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Pubs and restaurants could reopen NOW and not risk a second coronavirus wave, says top scientist

PUBS and restaurants could reopen now without risking a second coronavirus wave, a top scientist has claimed.

University of Oxford professor Sunetra Gupta insists there is a “strong possibility” the hospitality sector could exit the Covid-19 lockdown without endangering the public.

Her claim comes as bars across the UK have taken advantage of an easing in the rules which allows them to serve drinks in takeaway glasses and bottles.

Pictures posted on social media show people downing their first drinks from their locals since 47,000 pubs and bars were closed on March 20.

And the professor of Theoretical Epidemiology has urged a “rapid exit” from the lockdown as the deadly bug was “on its way out”.

In March, her team published a paper claiming up to half of Brits may already have been exposed to the virus as it had been spreading for months.

The controversial study found the UK’s true fatality rate may be as low as 0.1 per cent.

Boris Johnson announced the UK’s lockdown in March, days after a study by Imperial College, led by Professor Neil Ferguson, suggested as many as 500,000 Brits could die without action.

But Prof Gupta told the Unherd website her original theory is right, with the UK already developing a high level of “herd immunity”.

She said: “The Government’s defence is that this [the Imperial College model] was a plausible worst case scenario.

“I agree it was a plausible – or at least a possible – worst case scenario.

“The question is, should we act on a possible worst case scenario, given the costs of lockdown?

“It seems to me that, given that the costs of lockdown are mounting, that case is becoming more and more fragile.

I think that the epidemic has largely come and is on its way out in this country so I think it would be definitely less than 1 in 1000 and probably closer to 1 in 10,000

“I would say that it is more likely that the pathogen arrived earlier than we think it did, that it had already spread substantially through the population by the time lockdown was put in place.

“I think there’s a chance we might have done better by doing nothing at all.”

When asked about the virus infection fatality rate, she added: “I think that the epidemic has largely come and is on its way out in this country so I think it would be definitely less than 1 in 1,000 and probably closer to 1 in 10,000.”

The professor argues that people could have developed immunity for genetic reasons or pre-existing immunities to other coronaviruses, like the common cold.

Deaths from the virus rose past 36,000 today, with more than 250,000 Brits testing positive, but the rate of fatalities and infections is falling sharply.

Six major London hospitals reported no coronavirus deaths in 48 hours just weeks after the capital became one of the global epicentres of the pandemic.

Statistics also show how it is has been two weeks since London recorded more than 100 coronavirus cases in a day.

But the Covid-19 lockdown has ravaged the UK hospitality industry, with bars, pubs, restaurants and clubs all forced to close.

This week, it was revealed high-street restaurant chains Bella Italia and Cafe Rouge are on the verge of collapse putting 6,000 jobs at risk.

Ministers have said that some areas of the hospitality industry could start to open in July, but that social distancing measures will be implemented.

Landlords fear enforcing two-metre social distancing could force 80 per cent of Britain’s 47,000 pubs so stay shut, bankrupting owners,

But Prof Gupta believes a lot of people in the UK could already have “fended off” the virus, paving the way for venues to reopen.

She said: “In almost every context we’ve seen the epidemic grow, turn around and die away, almost like clockwork.

“Different countries have had different lockdown policies, and yet what we’ve observed is almost a uniform pattern of behaviour.

“To me, that suggests that much of the driving force here was due to the build-up of immunity.”

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