Covid expert Jenny Harries admits pandemic lockdowns NOT necessary for future outbreaks

Dame Jenny Harries

Dame Jenny Harries has worked in public health for over 25 years

Holly Bishop

By Holly Bishop

Published: 24/09/2023

- 11:44

Updated: 24/09/2023

- 13:54

Harries as said that a mandatory lockdown in the UK would be unlikely

Dame Jenny Harries, who became a household name during Covid, has admitted there will be no new mandatory lockdown in the event of a future pandemic.

Harries, who now heads up the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), said that whilst the UK is facing a number of different health threats, a full-scale lockdown like Britain saw in 2020 and 2021 is unlikely.

The public health offical stated that the largest infectious disease the UK is currently facing is pandemic flu.

Meanwhile, a new strain of the Covid virus, dubbed the “pirola” variant is spreading rapidly around the world as the months turn colder.

WATCH: WHO warns of next pandemic

Yet despite the health threats, Harries suggested that if another pandemic reared its head, the UK would not implement a mandatory lockdown.

Instead, it would copy a model similar to Sweden’s, where people were encouraged, rather than forced, to stay at home.

“What we saw with omicron and later waves of the pandemic, and even now, is that people are good at watching the data and they will take action themselves,” said Harries.

“You can see it in footfall going down. People actually start to manage their own socialisation, and the [viral] waves flatten off and come down.”

Harries defended the UK’s pandemic plan as being “pretty advanced” compared to other parts of the world, as reported in The Telegraph.

She cited the lack of capacity across the health and care social system as the main cause of problems that arouse during the pandemic, rather than UK’s Covid plan itself.

Yet whilst the head of the UKHSA believes we have learnt a lot more about infection control over the past few years, she emphasised the numerous health risks the UK is facing.


Aside the threat of Covid and respiratory diseases, the health expert said the UK should be wary of other conditions such as obesity which could impact the population’s overall health.

She also said issues such as climate change and antibiotic resistance were contributing to the UK’s “cumulative and growing” health security risk.

Last month, Harries opened a new vaccine development centre to tackle covid strains as well as other diseased ahead of a new outbreak.

She launched a “100 day mission” to create vaccines for various diseases, including “Disease X”, a currently unknown future threat.

Woman wearing a mask

Harries suggested that if another pandemic reared its head, the UK would not implement a mandatory lockdown


Speaking at the launch of the Vaccine Development and Evaluation Centre (VDEC) last month, she said: “The risks are growing around climate change and urbanisation.

“As well as building on the legacy of the pandemic caused by Covid-19, VDEC will target a wide range of other deadly viruses and pathogens, helping to secure the health and prosperity of the UK and saving lives around the world.”

Her warnings of health threats comes after Dame Kate Bingham, the woman responsible for the UK’s Covid vaccination rollout, advised governments around the world to prepare for an unknown disease.

“The next major pandemic is coming. It’s already on the horizon, and could be far worse — killing millions more people — than the last one," she wrote.

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