'We won't have lockdowns' says business secretary amid warnings about 'miserable winter'

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"We won't have lockdowns" the business secretary has said amid warnings from scientists that flu could be a "bigger problem" than Covid this winter.

Kwasi Kwarteng said new lockdowns are a "bad idea" and could be "incredibly debilitating" for UK businesses.

Asked if there could be more lockdowns in the future, he told ITV News: "No, my instinct is that we won’t have lockdowns.

"What business people hate is the uncertainty and so to reopen and then plunge the country into another lockdown would be incredibly debilitating."

He added lockdowns "would be a bad idea from my point of view and I don’t think it’s going to happen."

Mr Kwarteng's comments follow warnings from scientists about the impact of Covid and flu infections this winter.

Dr Susan Hopkins, the strategic response director for Covid-19 at Public Health England (PHE), warned on Sunday of a possible rise in cases at the end of the year and the potential need for more lockdowns.

She told the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show: “We may have to do further lockdowns this winter, I can’t predict the future, it really depends on whether the hospitals start to become overwhelmed at some point.

“But I think we will have alternative ways to manage this, through vaccination, through anti-virals, through drugs, through testing that we didn’t have last winter.

“All of those things allow us different approaches rather than restrictions on livelihoods that will move us forward into the next phase of learning to live with this as an endemic that happens as part of the respiratory viruses.”

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While Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, warned flu could be a "bigger problem" than Covid-19 this winter.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that data on whether the flu and Covid-19 jabs could be given at the same time is expected soon.

He added: "Reactogenicity, or how they react with each other, and what sort of side-effect profile that they give when given together, is really important.

"I will emphasise that actually flu could be potentially a bigger problem this winter than Covid.

"We've had a very, very low prevalence of flu for the last few years, particularly virtually nil during lockdown, and we do know that when flu has been circulating in very low numbers immunity drops in the population, and it comes back to bite us.

"So, flu can be really, really important this winter."

On Sunday morning, Professor Semple told Times Radio: “I suspect we’ll have a pretty miserable winter because the other respiratory viruses are going to come back and bite us quite hard. But after that, I think we’ll be seeing business as normal next year.

“There’s a sting in the tail after every pandemic, because social distancing will have reduced exposure, particularly of pregnant women and their newborn babies, they will have not been exposed to the usual endemic respiratory viruses.

“The protection that a pregnant woman would give to their unborn child has not occurred.

“So we are going to see a rise in a disease called bronchiolitis, and a rise in community acquired pneumonia in children and in the frail elderly, to the other respiratory viruses for which we don’t have vaccines.

“So that’s why we’re predicting a rough July, August and then a rough winter period.”

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