Circuit-breaker needed now in England to halt spread of Covid-19, say experts

People wearing face masks walk past a local lockdown sign
People wearing face masks walk past a local lockdown sign - (Copyright PA Wire)
16:08pm, Fri 16 Oct 2020
CBAD8A00-D2B9-4E0E-ADDF-D0366C357A34 Created with sketchtool. E9A4AA46-7DC3-48B8-9CE2-D75274FB8967 Created with sketchtool. 65CCAE04-4748-4D0F-8696-A91D8EB3E7DC Created with sketchtool.

An immediate national circuit-breaker is needed in England to halt the spread of coronavirus and the Government’s three-tier system is “not enough to reverse growth”, experts have warned.

Scientific research group Independent Sage has set out what it describes as a six-week emergency plan to bring Covid-19 infection rates below 5,000-a-day.

On Friday, new data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed there was an estimated average of 27,900 new cases per day of Covid-19 between October 2 and 8.

The blueprint from the group also calls for “urgent reform” of the NHS Test and Trace system.

Independent Sage’s proposals for a two to three-week lockdown include the immediate closure of schools, non-essential retail and businesses, the leisure and hospitality sectors (takeaways permitted) and places of worship.

If we don't take this opportunity, we are doomed to a groundhog day where as soon as this period is over and things relax, we will go back up again

It further calls for a return to two-metre physical distancing, a ban on household mixing outside of support bubbles and a switch to online teaching in universities.

The group adds that the circuit breaker should be followed by a period of continued restrictions sufficient to keep the R number below one while allowing schools to stay open.

Dr Gabriel Scally, a former NHS doctor and professor of public health at the University of Bristol, said: “Our emergency plan gives us an opportunity not only to get the virus back to a much lower level, but it also gives us an opportunity to put the framework in place to make sure it stays there.

“If we don’t take this opportunity, we are doomed to a groundhog day where as soon as this period is over and things relax, we will go back up again.”

He added: “Enough is enough. Fighting this virus without an effective find, test, trace, isolate and support system properly integrated and run at a local level by the NHS, and with local authorities, fighting without that is like fighting a battle with one hand tied behind your back.

“At the moment we are doing that, and that is why we’re losing.”

Professor Christina Pagel of University College London, said: “Cases, hospitalisations and deaths are rising across England. The tiered system will not be enough to reverse growth.

“Despite four weeks of living under Tier 2 type restrictions in many areas and three weeks of Tier 1 restrictions elsewhere, cases continued to increase rapidly everywhere.”

She added: “Agreeing with Sage, we believe a sharp national circuit breaker for two to three weeks followed by three to four weeks of continuing restrictions is needed to stop the current wave in its tracks, preventing tens of thousands of new cases and thousands of hospital stays.

“This will buy us precious time to build a public health and social scaffolding to support easing restrictions and restarting our lives.

“We must not waste this time.”

Sign up to our newsletter