Norfolk could be like Liverpool ‘in a month’ without Covid-19 circuit breaker, says UEA professor

Prof Paul Hunter of the UEA's Norwich medical school. Photo: Bill Smith

Prof Paul Hunter of the UEA's Norwich medical school. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant © 2013

Norwich and Norfolk could be like Nottingham and Liverpool “in a month” unless a coronavirus circuit-breaker lockdown is introduced, a UEA expert today warned.

Prof Paul Hunter, a medical professor at the UEA, warned that if the current rates continued, the city and county was on track to emulate areas that are worst hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, while he said a “circuit-breaker” lockdown would slow rates, Prof Hunter said the impact would not be instantaneous and that it may not have the desired effect in the long run.

His thoughts come as Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer continues to apply pressure on the government to bring in the measure, following on from advice of the chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty - who is also in favour of it.

Prof Hunter said: “It is difficult to be sure quite the impact a circuit-breaker could have. On one hand it will certainly suppress transmission for a week or two, there is no doubt about that. If we were to go back to the way things were in late March, the numbers will inevitably drop.

“However, this would not happen during the time itself, we wouldn’t see the benefits until a few weeks later when we would then be coming out of it. I’m unsure whether there would be a long-term sustainable benefit.

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“I know there are quite a few people on SAGE who are keen on the idea, including the chief medical officer, and perhaps they have access to evidence to convince them that I do not, but for me it is difficult to say.”

Currently, Norfolk has a significantly lower rate of infection than other parts of the country and sits in the lowest tier of the government’s three tier system. However, Prof Hunter warned the region may simply be behind the curve, rather than out of the woods.

He added: “I could see the situation in places like Liverpool at the minute being what we are looking at here within the next month or so. Thus far, we have been relatively lucky in Norfolk compared with other places, although it is clearly not entirely down to luck.

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“We may see this continue to be the case but to be honest I wouldn’t bet on it.”

Mr Starmer’s calls come as Northern Ireland today announced it would be going into a four-week circuit breaker lockdown of its own.

The Labour leader said: “The government has not got a credible plan to slow infections. It has lost control of the virus and it’s no longer following scientific advice.”

But Suffolk Coastal MP and work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey said it is “not what is needed right now”, but that the prime minister was “keeping everything under review”.

Therese Coffey MP Picture: Simon Parker

Therese Coffey MP Picture: Simon Parker

What do you think about the idea of a circuit-breaker lockdown? Email

Sir Keir Starmer (Picture: Polly Hancock)

Sir Keir Starmer (Picture: Polly Hancock) - Credit: Archant

Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, during a media briefing in Downing Street. Picture: P

Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, during a media briefing in Downing Street. Picture: PA Video/PA Wire - Credit: PA

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