A 'FOURTH WAVE' of Covid in Britain is "still likely" despite the successful vaccine rollout.
SAGE adviser Professor Andrew Hayward warned a rise in cases was possible – but the impact would be much less severe.
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Speaking to Times Radio he was asked if a surge of infections could occur if "mistakes" are made during the easing of lockdown restrictions.
The scientist, of University College London, said: "I think another wave is possible, likely even.
"I guess the difference is that another wave will cause substantially fewer deaths and hospitalisations because of high levels of vaccination across the sorts of people who would have ended up in hospital or unfortunately dying if they haven't been vaccinated.
"So the consequences of another wave are less. I think the challenge is of course we don't know exactly how much less.
"We know some people are still not vaccinated, because the uptake hasn't been complete.
"We know the vaccine isn't 100 per cent effective, although it's very good."
He said if there were further rounds of infections, a "very close eye" needed to be kept on who Covid was infecting and whether they were in vulnerable age groups.
Britain is set to ease lockdown restrictions on March 29, with the 'rule of six' returning to allow people to meet outdoors.
And from April 12, the Government plans to reopen hospitality venues to serve thirsty punters outdoors.
Social distancing measures are set to remain in place until at least June 21.
It is hoped the world-beating vaccination programme will mean Covid cases remain low when lockdown lifts.
More than half of the UK’s adult population has now received a first dose of the Covid vaccine, the health secretary confirmed today.
It means the midway point to jabbing the entire nation by the end of July was passed in the last 24 hours.
But while ministers said we would have a "bumper" supply this week, that is likely to drop off next month, it is understood.
Under 50s will have to wait for millions more doses to come in to get their jabs.
And instead the NHS will refocus efforts on jabbing anyone who was turned one down the first time.
Prof Hayward warned the UK needs to be "careful" as it releases lockdown measures as the rise in infections across Europe could last "several months".
It comes as tensions surrounding vaccine supplies boil over, with EU chief Ursula von der Leyen threatening to halt exports from Europe.
Ms von der Leyen told AstraZeneca it would block all vaccine supplies leaving the continent if the EU does not receive its deliveries first.
The chaotic EU rollout has also been plagued by unsubstantiated claims of blood clots linked to the AstraZeneca jab.
More than a dozen EU nations halted use of the vaccine over fears it may trigger blood clots, but leaders later admitted this was a political decision.
However, it damaged confidence in the AstraZeneca jab meaning uptake across Europe has been low.
A string of EU leaders were forced into an embarrassing U-turn after the ban – against the recommendation of the World Health Organization.
Within minutes of the EU regular saying the jab was "safe and effective", Italy, France and Germany resumed rollout.
But in yet another U-turn, France declared yesterday that the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe – but only for those over the age of 55.
Sir John Bell told BBC Radio 4 today: "It doesn’t make any sense. The whole thing is crackers.
"They are changing the rules every week and damaging confidence in vaccines generally.
"They are sitting on a giant stockpile and have a third wave now."
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