A SCIENTIFIC advisor to the Scottish Government has warned that a third wave of coronavirus is “entirely possible”, with lockdowns only deferring the problem.

Mark Woolhouse, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at Edinburgh University, said that while strict measures stop the immediate crisis and quickly reduce transmission, they do not make the virus go away.

He added that the quarantine crisis now engulfing university campuses across the UK had also been predicted “quite clearly” by scientific modelling. 

Hundreds of students reportedly fled halls of residence over the weekend rather than continue self-isolating in university accommodation, following warnings they could be expelled if they were caught attending parties or going to the pub.

Some have described “widespread panic” at the restrictions, including a possible ban on returning home for Christmas holidays, and feeling “like prisoners” amid threats that they could lose their university place if they went back to their families in defiance of public health pleas to stay put.

It comes as figures show there are now 105 people in hospital in Scotland with recently confirmed Covid-19, up six in 24 hours and from just 45 two weeks ago. 

The number of new cases reported fell to 344, however – down from a peak of 714 on Saturday.

Half of the infections (172 cases) were detected in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde region, with 58 in Lanarkshire and 40 in Lothian. 

Speaking on BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show, Prof Woolhouse – a member of the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 Advisory Group, and the UK Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (Spi-M) – said it was “entirely predictable” that campuses would become a hotbed for the infection to spread due to the effects of large numbers of students  coming together from different parts of the country and “congregating in very close proximity”.

He added that the situation had been forecast by modelling carried out at Bristol University.

“What they showed, quite clearly, was that the risks were, particularly, first-year students in halls of residence and face-to-face teaching,” said Prof Woolhouse.

“So this was very predictable, and it was modelled.”

Mr Woolhouse added a third wave of coronavirus was “entirely possible” unless other strategies were deployed to manage the epidemic, stressing that “lockdown doesn’t solve the problem, it defers it”.

He said it was possible a vaccine may be found within six months, but “doubtful” it would be ready for mass introduction in that time. 

He said the UK should pursue a “middle ground” focused on protecting the frail elderly and those with certain underlying conditions who were “enormously more at risk of this virus than the rest of the population”. 

“If we protect them, that gives us some wiggle room to relax measures for the rest of us.”

However, he said this would require a greater testing capacity than is currently available.

“The best way to keep yourself safe from this virus is that everyone you come into contact with is virus-free, and the way you establish that is through testing.

“But we’re not yet in a position to test on a regular basis – twice a week or whatever it would be – the very large number of people who are formal or informal carers of the vulnerable or their household members.

“So right now, we don’t have that option.”

Mr Woolhouse said restrictions would continue to be needed for “months and even years”, but suggested Sweden had coped without a “strictly enforced lockdown”.

In Sweden primary schools, bars, shops and restaurants never closed, and working from home was encouraged. However, gatherings of 50 people and care home visiting was banned.

Its Covid death rate is 10 times that of neighbour Norway, but lower than the UK.