Scientists call for national lockdown to stop Covid ‘running rampant’

A man walks past a poster in the window of a Primark shop in Manchester, in the final week of a four

A man walks past a poster in the window of a Primark shop in the final week of a four week national lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus. - Credit: PA

Scientists have called for an “immediate national lockdown” as latest figures show the new Covid variant is “out of control”.

The experts said delay would cause tens of thousands of avoidable deaths and have warned the UK has entered a “new, more serious pandemic”. 

Graphic that will be part of the Independent Sage press conference.

Graphic that will be part of the Independent Sage press conference. - Credit: Independent SAGE

Members of the Independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies said a radical rethink of the government’s entire strategy was required.

They said the pandemic in England was now at the most threatening stage of the entire year. 

The number of cases is at the highest since the start of community testing in May, with over 40,000 people testing positive each day before Christmas.

Further coronavirus deaths have been announced at the Queen Elizabeth and Norfolk and Norwich hospit

Further coronavirus deaths have been announced at the Queen Elizabeth and Norfolk and Norwich hospitals. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

The group said: “With a highly effective vaccine being rolled out, with more vaccines to be approved shortly, it is unconscionable that Covid-19 be allowed to run rampant through our communities just when protection is on the horizon. 

“We urgently need a new plan to control Covid-19 into 2021 and aggressively drive down cases across England.

Graphic that will be part of the Sage press conference.

Graphic that will be part of the Independent Sage press conference. - Credit: Independent SAGE


“Delayed and tentative decision making will result in the deaths of tens of thousands more people. Modellers from the Sage modelling subgroup estimate that even under national Tier 4, another 100,000 people could die before the end of June 2021.” 

Coronavirus testing centre. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Coronavirus testing centre. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire - Credit: PA

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At a press conference to be held at 10am on Wednesday, the group is set to call for the government to adopt a five-point strategy including an immediate nationwide lockdown, schools to remain closed throughout January and more effective border controls on international travel.

Sir David King, chair of Independent Sage and former chief scientific adviser to the UK government, said: “The UK is now at the most precarious stage of the pandemic and urgent action is needed. 

Graphic that will be part of the Sage press conference.

Graphic that will be part of the Independent Sage press conference. - Credit: Independent Sage

Professor Paul Hunter, from the University of East Anglia. Picture: UEA

Professor Paul Hunter, from the University of East Anglia. Picture: UEA - Credit: UEA

Professor Paul Hunter, a medical professor at the University of East Anglia (UEA), said even with a vaccine roll-out measures were likely to last until at least the summer. 

“We are in an extremely bad place at the moment,” he said. “Looking at the extra R value associated with this new variant, even the existing Tier 4 isn’t going to reverse the increase that we have seen.

Graphic that will be part of the Sage press conference.

Graphic that will be part of the Independent Sage press conference. - Credit: Independent Sage

“We have now got as many people in hospital as we did at the peak in early April and there is no sign that increase in admissions is slowing anytime soon.

“I strongly suspect that much of the next two or three months is going to be really bad and we will pretty much all either be in Tier 4 or Tier 5.”

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