A COUNTY virologist has said the lifting of Plan B measures is "too soon" adding coronavirus cases are "still ridiculous high".

Professor Lawrence Young also warned the pandemic is far from over describing the chance of more variants now as "likely".

Professor Young said: "There is no guarantee infection levels will continue to fall like they have been. I think it would have been better to have left it a few more weeks, just to be absolutely sure and to take pressure off the NHS.

"Plan B was introduced in early December. Case rates then were half what they are now, and there were something like 7,500 people in hospital.

"Latest data shows there are 18,979 people in hospital. If you looked at all the data and took the science into account, you would not do what they are doing now.

"The way this is being messaged is 'this is all over' luring people into a false sense of security."

Professor Young said the levels of infection still being seen nationally, including in Worcestershire, are "still ridiculous high" and dropping working from home and masks is "inevitably going to result in more people being infected".

"Talk of moving into a period where we are going to learn to live with the virus and it's endemic is nonsense at this stage," the University of Warwick professor said.

"We don't know how long immunity from booster jabs will last. If you let infections run rampant like this you are running the risk of more people getting long Covid.

"I don't believe we should be in lockdown, we should be moving to a different phase. But is should be done in a gradual way."

Professor Young, who lives in Bromsgrove, said the comparisons people make between Covid and the flu were wrong as coronavirus is still "far worse".

"Even in terms of current death rates and hospitalisations they are much worse than you would expect from seasonal flu," Professor Young said.

"The hope is in time we will be able to treat it like flu, but it will take more than a year or two I suspect.

"There is bound to be another variant, and there are no guarantees it could be more dangerous as Delta - it's possible, in fact quite likely.

"Just because Omicron was milder than Delta doesn't mean the next variant won't be. The hope is the wall of immunity will help us. It's hard to predict."

Professor Young said he believed the possible rebellion again Boris Johnson's leadership was also a factor in why Plan B was being lifted now.

"A lot of this is about Tory backbenchers. It is a very dangerous game to play," he said.

"The government has not covered themselves in glory, the pandemic is difficult for any government of course.

"But what they are doing now, for the sake of a few weeks and without a carefully planned approach like Scotland and Wales - is more about keeping the backbenchers happy than it is about the health of the county."

Robin Walker, MP for Worcester said: "I recognise if you are a virologist or epidemiologist you always look at this from how we can control things. The government takes advice from scientists, but we also have to balance it with the public good of people being able to go to work and to school.

"There will always be people who think we should be more cautious and those who think we should be more open and getting rid of restrictions.

"Plan B restrictions were necessary to slow the spread of Omicron and understand it better. We understand it now, the early hopes we had that it would become less severe have proven to be true."

The MP added politics was not inferring in decisions being made to lift restrictions, instead it being made on the evidence.

Mr Walker added it would be "foolish" to rule out restrictions returning in the future should the situation change.