Covid chief warns virus 'could rebound with a vengeance' in Britain without public caution

David Nabarro has urged the public to continue to be cautious to prevent a resurgence of the virus

The World Health Organization's Covid chief has said he hopes the public continues wearing face masks despite the changing guidance, as he warned the virus "could rebound with a vengeance" in the UK if caution is not followed.

David Nabarro, the WHO director general's special envoy for Covid-19, says these behaviours are particularly important as there is still a significant amount of Covid cases in western Europe.

While praising the UK's booster rollout, he warned that this pandemic is "not finished", despite the government describing recent Covid data as encouraging before announcing an easing of Plan B measures.

Face coverings will no longer be mandatory in any setting from Thursday next week and large venues like nightclubs can stop requesting Covid passes from customers from the same date.

"If, suddenly, everybody in Britain decides they are going to ditch all the precautions - there is a real risk that it could rebound with a vengeance and that would be really unpleasant," Mr Nabarro told ITV News.

'If there are ways to stop this virus from spreading - why not continue with these methods?'

"My own view is that if there are ways to stop this virus from spreading - and the virus is still moving around - why not continue with these methods?" he added.

"I do hope that the majority of people will continue to wear properly fitting facemasks and will maintain physical distancing."

"I don't see any absolute advantage to ignoring the basic principles of infection prevention that have been so important in the last two years."

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He says there is no value in having lots of people infected, with the long-term impacts of the virus remaining uncertain and the possibility of more Covid variants emerging.

A further 108,069 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases have been recorded in the UK and a further 359 people had died as of 9am on Wednesday, the government said.

With Health Secretary Sajid Javid declaring the highly infectious Omicron variant is “in retreat”, some experts have said the government's relaxing of curbs risked jeopardising progress already made.

While Mr Nabarro places great stock in "personal responsibility", he said that "living with the virus, doesn't mean letting it rip", adding there will likely be future spikes of infection.

"My anticipation is that there will continue to be intermittent surges of disease - they will come up quite locally, they will overload hospitals, they will cause quite a lot of distress - and they will be managed," he said.