October 24, 2020

Gov scientists claim ‘circuit break’ lockdown could stop thousands of Covid deaths

Gov scientists claim ‘circuit break’ lockdown could stop thousands of Covid deaths

TWO of the government’s top scientific advisers claim a two week ‘circuit break’ lockdown could prevent thousands of deaths before Christmas.

Professors Graham Medley and Matt Keeling say between 3,000 and as many as 107,000 deaths could be avoided by January if a national lockdown is imposed over the October half term.

Professor Graham Medley, who sits on the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies

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Professor Graham Medley, who sits on the Scientific Advisory Group for EmergenciesCredit: BBC
Matt Keeling is a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling

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Matt Keeling is a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on ModellingCredit: warwick.ac.uk
A street sign in Liverpool advises members of the public to 'Maintain Social Distance'

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A street sign in Liverpool advises members of the public to ‘Maintain Social Distance’Credit: AFP or licensors

Prof Medley who sits on the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), and Prof Keeling, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling, are expected to release their findings in a joint paper on Wednesday, The Financial Times reports. 

Their paper, which is being submitted for peer review, models the effects of two weeks strict social interventions starting on October 24 and ending on November 7. 

It suggests that tighter restrictions could also prevent between 5,000 and 140,000 hospitalisations by January. 

And the authors reportedly argue that imposing the rules for just a short period, over the October half term, could “limit the economic damage” of a lockdown. 

Their academic paper comes after Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition, called for a “circuit breaker” lockdown to curb the surge in coronavirus infections across the UK. 

‘UNDER REVIEW’

On Monday the prime minister set out a new three-tier system for local lockdowns, with Liverpool the first region to take the brunt of the strictest new measures.

Downing Street has refused to rule out a short national lockdown, but Boris Johnson last night said a “balanced” approach was needed to draw the line between stopping the virus and crushing the economy.

A spokesman for No10 said this afternoon: “Obviously we keep all of our measures under review and where we have needed to go further we have been prepared to do so. 

“What you did hear very clearly from the Prime Minister yesterday is that when he was asked about something akin to a national lockdown he said that he wanted to avoid measures that would do immediate harm to children’s education and there are other important considerations as well as mental health and wellbeing.”

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Mr Johnson defied the Government top scientific advisers yesterday when he brought in his new tier system of local lockdowns.

Documents released from Sage, chaired by Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, revealed his top team of experts were pushing for a harsher lockdown.

They warned that failing to do bring in a circuit breaker lockdown could result in “a very large epidemic with catastrophic consequences”.

Meanwhile, Sir Keir Starmer has blasted the PM for “no longer following scientific advice”.

He said: The Government has not got a credible plan to slow infection it has lost control of the virus.”

He quoted from the minutes of the Sage meeting, which say a circuit breaker lockdown could put the UK 28 days back in terms of new infections.

Today the number of new cases skyrocketed to 17,234 in the UK, with 143 new deaths – the highest daily rise since June.

There were also 655 new admissions to hospital, after the PM warned it was crucial to stop the NHS being overwhelmed to the point where they are unable to carry out other essential services.

Members of Sage proposed a circuit breaker lockdown to stem the spread of coronavirus in late September but Mr Johnson opted instead for lighter measures — including the “rule of six” on gatherings and the 10pm closure of pubs. 

A Downing Street spokesman said on Tuesday that the Sage advice was rejected because “economic impacts” had to be taken into account — but denied that the scientific advisers had been sidelined. 

Millions of Brits have gone back into tough lockdown measures
Millions of Brits have gone back into tough lockdown measures