'I don’t think it’s over-optimistic' - Norwich professor on roadmap out of lockdown

Prof George Lomonossoff, a virologist at the John Innes Centre in Norwich. Pic: John Innes Centre

Prof George Lomonossoff, a virologist at the John Innes Centre in Norwich. Pic: John Innes Centre

A leading virologist in Norwich has described the latest roadmap out of lockdown as a “realistic target”.

Professor George Lomonossoff is a virologist at the John Innes Centre, using molecular biology to understand the assembly and properties of viruses. 

His previous research resulted in him being named a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council Overall Innovator of the Year, alongside former PhD student Frank Sainsbury, in 2012. 

Interviewed on Five Live radio this morning (Tuesday, February 23) he was supportive of the plan set out by Boris Johnson

He said: “It is quite cautious and step-by-step. 

“But there's obviously this caveat that if the data does not go in the right direction after each step, presumably there will be a pause. 

“I rather think it’s a bit like a ratchet. So that you go to the next step and hope you never have to go back but you wouldn’t necessarily go forward unless all the numbers are going in the right direction. 

“I certainly hope the end is in sight.” 

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Prof Lomonossoff noted that the key to the plan was in the data and not the dates, and emphasised that it was “critical” the dates were viewed as the earliest possible times and not an exact science. 

“People [must not] absolutely go out immediately and assume ‘okay we’re waiting around for nothing, we’re just hanging around until the final whistle blows and we can go out’. It’s this kind of step-by-step approach so you can evaluate the effect of each relaxation rule and make sure you don’t do anything which brings back the virus or a big spike.” 

He added that he believed the June 21 end of lockdown date seemed “quite realistic”. 

“I don’t think it’s over-optimistic.  

“Obviously the caveat that something unexpected may occur, but I think it's a realistic target date. 

“You wouldn’t proceed to the next step if there seemed to be a rise in infections. You can’t rule anything out.” 

He also welcomed the dropping of the tier system and explained that more local implementations, such as mass testing, would be more effective at eliminating any spread. He added that as winter approached, wearing masks could continue to be an option.

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