Scientific advisers to the government believe the country is still on track for the safe lifting of coronavirus restrictions, although they have urged people to continue working from home.
Analysts predict an increase in coronavirus cases if the restrictions are eased. However, a future surge is not expected to be as large as last winter and will not put much pressure on the NHS.
Modeling done for the government suggests that people will not return to pre-pandemic levels if restrictions are lifted in May and the summer.
When asked if people should continue to work from home when social restrictions are lifted in England on June 21, one source said there was no reason to return to an office full time if work could be done at home.
They said it made sense for people to continue working from home because it reduced the level of socializing, and that this was supported by many companies that allowed hybrid or home-based working.
That source said that even last August, people were only having about 50% of the pre-pandemic level of contact with other people.
Among the measures that could help keep case rates in check this summer were working from home, good ventilation indoors, and setting out tables.
A decision on whether masks are needed during transport will be made over the next month or so, depending on coronavirus rates, they said.
On the question of booster vaccination in the fall, the source said people will likely receive a vaccination from the existing range of vaccines.
A vaccine specifically designed to combat variants may not be available until the end of the year and may not be needed, they added.
The comments come as data show Covid-19 infections in England and Wales are at their lowest level in eight months.
Approximately one in 1,180 people in private households in England had Covid-19 in the week ending May 2, down from one in 1,010 the previous week, according to the latest estimates from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
This is the lowest since the week ending Sept. 5, when the estimate was one in 1,400.
The percentage of people testing positive for coronavirus has declined in all regions of England, according to ONS, except Yorkshire and the Humber, eastern England and London, where the trend is uncertain.
In Wales, an estimated one in 2,070 people in private households contracted covid-19 in the week ending May 2 – a decrease from one in 1,570 the previous week and the lowest level since the week ending Sept. 5.
In Northern Ireland, the estimate is about one in 750 people, down from one in 940 the previous week.
In Scotland, the estimate is about one in 760, down from one in 640 and the lowest since estimates for Scotland began in October.
Elsewhere, Public Health England (PHE) has upgraded the variant of coronavirus B.1.617.2 first identified in India to a variant of concern.
This is based on evidence that suggests the variant is at least as transmissible as the Kent variant, although it does not carry the specific E484K mutation that has experts concerned.
According to PHE, cases with the variant have increased from 202 to 520 in the past week, and nearly half of the cases are related to travel or contact with a traveler.
Cases of the variant are spread across the country. However, most are in the northwest (especially Bolton) and in London, where there has also been increased transmission.
Weekly data show that Bolton in Greater Manchester had the second-highest Covid 19 case rate in England in the seven days ending May 2, rising from 48.0 to 85.2.
Dr. Susan Hopkins, Covid-19 Strategic Response Director at PHE, said, “The way to limit the spread of all variants is the same, and although we all enjoy a little more freedom, the virus is still with us.
“Keep your distance, wash your hands regularly and thoroughly, cover your nose and mouth when indoors, keep buildings well ventilated and meet people from other households outside.
“If you are told to get tested, if you have any symptoms or have been in contact with someone who has tested positive, please make sure you get tested, too.”
According to current Kenn