Difficult weeks ahead, but ‘progressive lifting of restrictions’ in sight claims Gove

British government minister Michael Gove says the country is “moving to a situation where it is possible to say that we can live with COVID-19” but that situation has not yet been reached and “there will be some difficult weeks ahead”.

Latest government statistics, updated on Jan 9, show that across the whole of the United Kingdom 14,475,192 people have tested positive, with 18,454 people in hospital, and a total of 150,154 people having died within 28 days of a positive test.

But, Gove said, the latest Omicron variant had not turned out to be as damaging as had been feared, so it was time to start thinking about the future, tempered with a huge degree of caution.

“One of the things that we do need to think about is how we live with COVID-19, how we live with this particular type of coronavirus,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today program.

“There are other coronaviruses which are endemic and with which we live, viruses tend to develop in a way whereby they become less harmful but more widespread.

“So, guided by the science, we can look to the progressive lifting of restrictions, and I think for all of us, the sooner the better. But we’ve got to keep the (National Health Service) safe.”

When asked about reports in the Sunday Times newspaper that the government could be stopping the supply of free lateral flow tests, Gove rejected the idea, saying the “key thing” is the tests are “available to those who need them for as long as they need them”.

“I don’t think anyone is talking at the moment – when we’re facing the significant pressures the NHS are facing – about this vital line of defence going,” he added.

Elsewhere, The Daily Telegraph reports that research from Imperial College London suggests that exposure to the common cold before the pandemic began may have contributed to some people having immunity to the novel coronavirus.

A study showed that half of people living with an infected person in the second wave of infection, before mass vaccination was available, may have avoided picking up the virus because of their high levels of memory T-cells from colds.

This could also help explain why groups such as children, who are more susceptible to colds, seem to be better protected against the virus. It may also provide guidance for developing new forms of vaccine against variants yet to come.

“It’s a good proportion of the population, a third in our study (who are likely to have the T cells),” Ajit Lalvani, senior author of the study and director of the NIHR Respiratory Infections Health Protection Research Unit at Imperial, told the newspaper. “It explains the good outcomes or resistance to infection for some people.”