- Scientific advisers have urged Boris Johnson to introduce tighter lockdown measures as coronavirus cases surge across much of the country.
- The UK-wide infection rate rose from 63.8 a week ago to 125.7 as of Tuesday, meaning cases are now doubling every seven days.
- The prime minister appears to be resisting calls for a national lockdown.
- Professor John Edmunds, a scientific adviser to the government, said Boris Johnson should introduce further national restrictions to replace the patchwork of local measures currently in place across the UK.
- ‘We need to take much more stringent measures, not just in the north of England, we need to do it countrywide, and bring the epidemic back under control,’ he said.
- Professor Stephen Reicher, another scientific adviser to the government, said the prime minister should take action now to avoid a March-style lockdown by the end of October.
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Boris Johnson’s scientific advisers want him to introduce “drastic” new lockdown measures after the number of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations surged in the UK.
“We are starting to get to a point where we really will have to take really critical action,” Professor John Edmunds, a member of the government’s scientific advisory group said on Tuesday.
“These local restrictions that have been put in place in much of the north of England really haven’t been very effective,” Edmunds told the BBC’s Newsnight programme.
“We need to take much more stringent measures, not just in the north of England, we need to do it countrywide, and bring the epidemic back under control.”
The call came after:
- The UK recorded 14,452 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, a figure which has more than doubled in the space of 11 days.
- Deaths linked to coronavirus also rose to 234, up from 158 the week before.
- The UK-wide infection rate rose from 63.8 a week ago to 125.7 as of Tuesday, according to PA news agency, meaning cases are doubling every seven days.
- Coronavirus hospitalisations have also surged with 478 admissions to English hospitals on October 4 compared to just 241 on September 27.
Edmunds said that the government should introduce further national restrictions to replace the patchwork of local measures currently in place across the UK.
The most stringent measures, including a ban on household mixing indoors, have been enforced across much of northern England where the rate of infection is highest. But they do not appear to have worked, with new daily cases in cities including Manchester, Liverpool, and Newcastle soaring in the past seven days.
Leaders of Leeds, Manchester, and Newcastle city councils along with the mayor of Liverpool this week wrote to Matt Hancock, the health secretary, saying that the local restrictions are “not working” and even “counter-productive.”
Other scientists who sit on the scientific advisory group for emergencies (SAGE) also urged the government to tighten existing national restrictions.
Professor Stephen Reicher, a professor of social psychology who advises the UK government on coronavirus, said that Boris Johnson and devolved leaders should take action now to avoid a March-style lockdown by the end of October.
“I do think it’s important to do something because if you look at the figures at the moment, the level of infections is about 10% of what it was at the peak in March, but, at the rate of doubling, it would probably be at the same as the peak in March by the end of October,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“So the good news is we have a window of opportunity to do something.”
“If we squander that window of opportunity, then we really are in trouble, then we really would be talking about going back to March in terms of lockdown measures. But we’re not talking about that now. We’ve got time.”
Sir Jeremy Farrar, a medical researcher and a SAGE adviser, said the UK should learn lessons from France — where intensive care units in the city of Marseille are “close to saturation” — and focus on reducing transmission.
“Increased & sustained community transmission inevitably leads a few weeks later to people getting ill, & a few weeks later again to needing hospital & intensive care,” Farrar said on Twitter.
“It is [a] hard choice we need to make in order to establish a clear sustainable strategic plan & then have capacity & [the] chance to deliver it. A fudge will neither deliver an open economy nor save lives”
Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, will reportedly announce tightened restrictions for Scotland this afternoon, including reduced opening hours for pubs and restaurants.
However, the prime minister appears to be resisting calls for a national lockdown at this stage, despite the alarming rise in cases.
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