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Experts say UK beach trips could restart soon – but no holidays abroad

Beach trips are one of the safest activities as lockdown measures start to be lifted, experts say – but holidays abroad may have to wait.

Addressing MPs on the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, scientists whose research feeds into SAGE have laid out how restrictions could be lifted in the coming months.

Epidemiologists suggested beach holidays could be one of first things to be allowed again – even before the summer, the Mirror reports.

However, MPs also heard that trips abroad carry the risk of importing dangerous new variants of Covid-19.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said today that the current lockdown in England would be done in “stages”.

Prof Mark Woolhouse, of Edinburgh University said there was “very little evidence of outdoor transmission”and such activities that were not “mass gatherings” could soon be restarted.

Prof Woodhouse, who feeds in to Sage sub-group Spi-M, said: “There’s never been a Covid-19 outbreak linked to a beach ever anywhere in the world to the best of my knowledge.

“So I think we do have to understand where the risks are and aren’t so that he can do as much as possible safely.”

He said schools have “never” driven new outbreaks by reversing falling infections but acknowledged they could “contribute” to a slower drop.

Prof Dame Angela McLean, of Oxford University and Chief Scientific Adviser for the Ministry of Defence, said: The evidence was from earlier in the outbreak many cases were imported from Europe by returning holidaymakers.

“It wasn’t mainly imported from China. I think we could learn from that.”

The experts told of the first “hints” that vaccines are reducing the overall infection numbers, with falling deaths in the elderly one of the first measures to show the impact of vaccinations.

Prof Woolhouse added: “My group does a weekly monitoring of the rate of growth of the epidemic in Scotland, and we have just begun to see a signal, where cases are not growing so fast in the over 75.

“That was the first time in the last week or two. Just in case I want to wait a little longer to be confident that there is a strong signal, but there’s a hint.”

On a suggestion that less emphasis should now be placed on the R number, Prof McLean said: “We’re trying to get the number of infections to be decreasing and I don’t think we’re an international outlier in doing that.

“I will stick up for the R number.”

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