Large parts of England should brace themselves to join London and the South East England under Tier 4 lockdown, according to experts, after a sharp rise in cases and the emergence of a mutated strain of COVID-19.
Speaking yesterday, the government’s chief scientific officer Sir Patrick Vallance warned that we will need to introduce tougher measures across the board in order to tackle the coronavirus. He said that the new COVID-19 mutation was “everywhere”, and that the situation is likely to get worse after the “inevitable mixing” at Christmas.
While clarifying that it’s not for him to make decisions about lockdown, he said: “I think it is likely that this will grow in numbers of the variant across the country, and I think it’s likely, therefore, that measures will need to be increased in some places, in due course, not reduced.”
Professor Robert West, a behaviour scientist who sits on the Sage advisory board, agreed that new restrictions are necessary. He called for “stricter but more rational social distancing rules”, along with an improved test, trace, isolate and support system.
He acknowledged that this “sounds expensive”, but added “the alternative could well be a catastrophic collapse in confidence in the country’s ability to control the virus, and the economic, human and social disaster that would follow”.
Andrew Hayward, an infectious disease expert and fellow Sage member, warned that it’s unlikely the mutant strain – said to be up to 70 percent more transmittable – will be contained within the South East. He said: “I recognise that we have restricted travel from the Tier 4 areas … but this transmission is not only in those Tier 4 areas, it’s there at some level across the country. We’re just entering a really critical phase of this pandemic, and it makes absolute sense … to act decisively, I would say, across the country, as many other countries have done, despite them not – as far as we know – being affected by this strain.”
Asked if there should be a national lockdown, Hayward suggested that “a consistent national message” would be helpful, given that the levels of risk throughout the country are substantial across the board, while differing in intensity.
Currently, 90 percent of England’s hospital beds are full, with coronavirus causing extra strain on the NHS, which struggles during winter at the best of times. As it stands, more than 42 countries have banned travel from the UK, following the discovery of the new strain. In a briefing yesterday, UK scientists confirmed they are “highly confident” that this mutation is more infectious. Some experts have warned that we could be heading towards a death and hospital admissions rate comparable to the first peak.
Despite this, the government has recently attempted to assuage fears that a third national lockdown is inevitable. Three days ago, Boris Johnson said he was “hoping to avoid” this from happening, although this was before the government’s Christmas U-turn on Saturday. Numerous outlets have reported that we can expect an announcement on the 30th of December, which will confirm whether we’re going into lockdown… again.