UK lockdown 2021: Covid Government adviser fearful of another lockdown at Christmas

Professor Peter Openshaw said it is “unacceptable” to see the number of deaths in the country at the moment

A prominent adviser to the Government on Covid has said he is “very fearful” there will be another “lockdown Christmas” as he urged the public to do everything possible to reduce transmission of the virus.

Professor Peter Openshaw, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), said case numbers and death rates are currently “unacceptable”.

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At a glance: 5 key points

  • Prof Openshaw said he thinks the hospitals in many parts of the country are “barely coping”
  • He said measures such as working from home and mask wearing are “so important” as part of efforts to control the spread of Covid
  • The expert’s warning comes after the Prime Minister resisted calls from health leaders for tighter restrictions despite the rising levels of infections
  • The World Health Organisation warned the vaccine alone will not be able to lift the world out of the pandemic
  • Scientific advisers have told the Government it must ensure Plan B restrictions to tackle coronavirus can be “rapidly” deployed if needed

What’s been said

Speaking in a personal capacity, Prof Openshaw, of Imperial College London, told BBC Breakfast: “I’m very fearful that we’re going to have another lockdown Christmas if we don’t act soon.

“We know that with public health measures the time to act is immediately. There’s no point in delaying.

“If you do delay then you need to take even more stringent actions later. The immediacy of response is absolutely vital if you’re going to get things under control.

“We all really, really want a wonderful family Christmas where we can all get back together.

“If that’s what we want, we need to get these measures in place now in order to get transmission rates right down so that we can actually get together and see one another over Christmas.”

Background

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said this week that new cases could reach 100,000 a day as an estimated 5.3 million booster doses of the Covid vaccine have been delivered in the UK.

Experts on the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said, in minutes of a meeting published on Friday, that a further huge spike in infections as seen in January was “increasingly unlikely”, as experts predicted a series of broader, flatter peaks as the virus continues to spread.

However, in its meeting dated October 14, Sage warned measures from the Government’s Plan B would have greatest effect if brought in in unison and earlier on rather than later.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak told The Times the country could not return to “significant economic restrictions.”

He said the vaccine rollout meant this was not necessary while Boris Johnson also said on Friday that another lockdown was not planned.

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