An upsurge in Covid-19 cases has prompted the government to incline to scientific advisers` urge to impose national lockdown restrictions.
Next week millions of people across England are expected to come under new national lockdown restrictions. Despite efforts to avoid a national lockdown, Boris Johnson has succumbed to pressure from experts who warned that the coronavirus could spread faster than their worst-case scenarios.
Ministers had declined the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage)`s proposals for a two-week “circuit-breaker” over half-term, but now a longer-term would be necessary to control the crisis.
Sir Patrick Vallance and Prof Chris Whitty, who head the Sage presented Johnson with evidence to prove the urgency of imposing a lockdown across England. The health secretary, Matt Hancock, and Michael Gove have backed the scientists, arguing that local restrictions were now insufficient and the virus could kill 85,000 people this winter.
In the week ending 23 October, more than 500,000 people were estimated to have had the coronavirus, with more than one in 100 people infected in England, up from one in 130 the previous week, official figures have shown. The figures also showed 24,405 more positive tests in the UK and 274 more deaths.
On Friday, the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab admitted that the government was considering introducing a higher tier 4 level of Covid-19 restrictions. Dr Mike Tildesley warned that it was “only a matter of time” before the whole country would come under such restrictions.
Dr Julian Tang, a consultant virologist at Leicester Royal Infirmary, said: “If we started now I would say you’d need at least six weeks of lockdown with total compliance across the nation. The government would have to fund that because the economy would be catastrophically hit.
“Unfortunately after Christmas and new year the cases are going to rise again, but if we want that break we might have enough drop in [the reproduction number] to give everyone a break … If you say ‘if you want to save Christmas from the coronavirus Grinch’, then I think people will do it.”
Scientists and public health advisers said imposing new national measures earlier could “save Christmas from the coronavirus” and allow households to meet during the festive season.