Britain will need draconian lockdowns until AT LEAST the summer and Tier 4 rules can’t contain new mutant strain, scientists warn as SAGE expert fears national action by end of January is inevitable
- Experts say it will take months before effect of mass vaccination is broad enough to loosen lockdown rules
- Although Matt Hancock claimed normality could return by spring, scientists expect lockdowns into summer
- Social distancing and mask-wearing will have to continue for far longer, they said, to stop transmission
- Young people are currently not on the vaccination list so even a successful roll-out won’t stop virus circulating
England will be stuck in its relentless cycle of coronavirus lockdowns until at least the end of spring even if the vaccine roll-out goes to plan, scientists warned today.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said this week he had a ‘very high degree of confidence that we are going to be out of this by the spring,’ in a worrying echo of Boris Johnson’s now-ridiculed claim the UK would be ‘back to normal by Christmas’ in July.
But experts say they expect the repeated lockdowns and social distancing rules to keep rolling for ‘months and months’, lasting until May or even into the summer of 2021.
The PM yesterday refused to put a ‘deadline’ on when he thought the current rules – which have 78 per cent of England’s population in the toughest Tier 4 – would end, but admitted they might stay until the spring.
Families hoping for a Christmas reunion after being separated during the festive period might be out of luck, with scientists convinced the outbreak is still getting worse and even the toughest lockdowns might not be able to stop the spread of the new super-infectious variant of coronavirus.
Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious disease expert at the University of East Anglia, said on BBC Radio 4 this morning: ‘It is going to be a very, very difficult few months until we get, hopefully, relief as we move from spring into summer when many people will have been vaccinated and the warmer weather will be here.’
Dr Simon Clarke, a microbiologist at the University of Reading, told MailOnline he expected lockdown rules would keep going ‘until April or May’ before the effects of mass vaccination would be strong enough to relax restrictions.
And Dr Gabriel Scally, a doctor and public health professor at the University of Bristol, told this website he expects the rules to carry on for ‘months and months’, with some form of national lockdown inevitable because even Tier 4 ‘doesn’t seem to be working’.
Their comments come after the Government yesterday plunged 20million more people into the toughest lockdown rules after allowing them to meet with families over Christmas, meaning there are now 44million people living in Tier 4 – in which all non-essential shops and hospitality businesses must close – with the remaining 12million living in Tier Three. Only the Isles of Scilly, with a population of 2,000 off Cornwall’s coast, is in Tier 2.
Boris Johnson and his ministers are pressing forward with plans to stick to the local lockdown system despite the situation rapidly getting worse all over the country.
Experts said SAGE will likely be pressuring the Government to order another national lockdown but there is a ‘political imperative’ not to officially call another one – it may come area by area until the whole country ends up in the toughest rules.
One of SAGE’s own advisers, Warwick University mathematician Dr Mike Tildesley, warned today that the current progress of the outbreak will end with ‘ultimately, probably, a national lockdown before we get to the end of January’.
Two thirds of England’s population – around 44million people – is now in Tier 4, with the remainder living in Tier 3 lockdowns. Only the Isles of Scilly, off the coast of Cornwall, is in the looser Tier 2
The UK is currently vaccinating people at a rate of around 270,000 per week using the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine, which was approved at the start of December.
Approval of the jab made by Oxford University and AstraZeneca this week means that, from next Monday, January 4, the roll-out is expected to speed up rapidly.
But it will take months to get enough vaccines to people at risk of dying, and to bring down the risk enough for lockdown rules to be loosened.
Vaccines also won’t stop Covid-19 from circulating in the UK. Although it should bring deaths and hospital admissions down, doses are not being set aside for healthy young people and children, so the virus will continue to circulate among them until they are included in the vaccination programme, if that ever happens.
The combination of this wait and the fact that the faster-spreading variant of the virus is taking over as the dominant strain is more resistant to lockdowns, means rules may have to be tougher and longer-lasting than ministers want to let on.
Dr Paul Hunter said on BBC Radio 4’s Today this morning: ‘One issue was this new variant which, despite the fact that we were in lockdown in November, was still increasing in those areas where it was prevalent and increasing quite quickly… all the indications are that actually that this new variant may well continue to increase despite most people being in Tier 4 and it is extremely concerning.’
He added: ‘It is a very difficult situation because if we relax what’s going on at the moment then the disease will increase more rapidly and we can’t guarantee that even if we are all in Tier 4 that the instance would reverse.
‘The one light on the horizon is the licensing of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine but there is a big issue – and the WHO’s chief scientist said two days ago – we still don’t know whether these vaccines will actually stop transmission.
‘It is going to be a very, very difficult few months until we get, hopefully, relief as we move from spring into summer when many people will have been vaccinated and the warmer weather will be here.’
Health Secretary Matt Hancock, pictured in the House of Commons, told LBC Radio yesterday: ‘We now know with a very high degree of confidence that we are going to be out of this by the spring’
Dr Gabriel Scally, a member of the Independent SAGE group, which is calling for a total national lockdown to stop the second wave, told MailOnline the virus is now out of control in England.
He said this morning: ‘What we have seen from Tier 4 across the country is that, in most cases, Tier 4 doesn’t seem to be working. It hasn’t brought infection rates down and in most areas it hasn’t even stopped the increase.
‘Despite Tier 3 and Tier 4 areas, the virus has been uncontrolled and continued to grow.
‘The Government needs to get it under control but it isn’t taking proper measures; they’re being reactive – they’re waiting until the numbers get so bad they have to do something, instead of being preventative.’
Dr Scally said it was vital that officials fix the ailing NHS Test & Trace system, which doesn’t routinely test people who are self-isolating, and give schools more money and more local buildings to help them stay open and allow social distancing.
He added: ‘I think it’s going to be months and months before we’ll be able to relax to the sort of degree that we want to be able to.’
Dr Simon Clarke said there were signs that Tier 4 rules are ‘not stringent enough’ and that more rules would have to be brought in if infections keep climbing.
‘This will last until April or May, I think,’ he told MailOnline.
‘I’m very concerned about this mass roll-out of vaccines. It’s a great thing to do, but done properly. This has the potential to be a botch-job.’
Which areas went into Tier 4 today?
Leicestershire (Oadby and Wigston, Harborough, Hinckley and Bosworth, Blaby, Charnwood, North West Leicestershire, Melton)
Lincolnshire (City of Lincoln, Boston, South Kesteven, West Lindsey, North Kesteven, South Holland, East Lindsey)
Northamptonshire (Corby, Daventry, East Northamptonshire, Kettering, Northampton, South Northamptonshire, Wellingborough)
Derby and Derbyshire (Derby, Amber Valley, South Derbyshire, Bolsover, North East Derbyshire, Chesterfield, Erewash, Derbyshire Dales, High Peak)
Nottingham and Nottinghamshire (Gedling, Ashfield, Mansfield, Rushcliffe, Bassetlaw, Newark and Sherwood, Nottinghamshire, Broxtowe)
Birmingham and Black Country (Dudley, Birmingham, Sandwell, Walsall, Wolverhampton)
Warwickshire (Rugby, Nuneaton and Bedworth, Warwick, North Warwickshire, Stratford-upon-Avon)
Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent (East Staffordshire, Stafford, South Staffordshire, Cannock Chase, Lichfield, Staffordshire Moorlands, Newcastle under Lyme, Tamworth, Stoke-on-Trent)
Lancashire (Burnley, Pendle, Blackburn with Darwen, Ribble Valley, Blackpool, Preston, Hyndburn, Chorley, Fylde, Lancaster, Rossendale, South Ribble, West Lancashire, Wyre)
Cheshire and Warrington (Cheshire East, Cheshire West and Chester, Warrington)
Cumbria (Eden, Carlisle, South Lakeland, Barrow-in-Furness, Copeland, Allerdale)
Greater Manchester (Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford, Wigan)
Tees Valley (Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland, Stockton-on-Tees )
North East (County Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North Tyneside, Northumberland, South Tyneside, Sunderland)
Gloucestershire (Gloucester, Forest of Dean, Cotswolds, Tewkesbury, Stroud, Cheltenham)
Somerset County (Mendip, Sedgemoor, Somerset West and Taunton, South Somerset)
Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole
Isle of Wight
Dr Clarke said he was worried about the fact that the Government has decided to delay second doses of the Pfizer vaccine for people who have already had their first and were promised another within a month. Ministers have instead chosen to use spare doses to give one dose to more people, going against the instructions of Pfizer.
Even if the vaccine roll-out goes to plan and the jab works as well in reality as it did in clinical trials, Dr Clarke said, it would not be a silver bullet to end the epidemic.
He explained: ‘We have been warned by JVT [Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer] – and this isn’t the first time this has been said – that when we get into the summer, don’t assume that social distancing and mask-wearing will stop; we still have to control the virus because it’s still there.
‘It’s all very well vaccinating everybody over 65 and other people with long term health conditions, but the average of admission to intensive care is 60 and there are more men in their 40s in ICU with Covid than there are over-85s…
‘There is a political imperative not to have a national lockdown, or not to call it that, but the direction of travel is clear – everywhere is in Tier 3 or 4. Only a few weeks ago that people were throwing their hands in the air about being put in Tier 3.
‘SAGE may be advising them [ministers] to tighten Tier 4. Whether they add things to Tier 4 or call it Tier 5, it doesn’t really matter. They will be putting pressure on them to make things less comfortable.’
An adviser on SAGE, Dr Mike Tildesley, said he expects there to be another – third – national lockdown within weeks.
In a stark warning on BBC Radio 4 today, he said: ‘Cases are rising in a really concerning way, so I suspect that unfortunately we will see a ramping-up even further of restrictions, probably more of the country being in Tier 4 or ultimately probably a national lockdown before we get to the end of January.’
Boris Johnson last night warned of a new ‘reality’ with mutant Covid rampant on Wednesday as he plunged virtually the whole of England into brutal lockdown until the spring – with the UK recording 981 deaths in its worst daily toll since April and vaccines now the only hope of escape.
The PM voiced his ‘bitter regret’ during the announcement, which pasted the toughest lockdown rules across all regions.
He could not say when the rules would end, warning on ITV that he couldn’t even be sure they would be lifted by April, after Matt Hancock claimed the country could be back to normal by the spring. Mr Johnson said: ‘I am not going to give a deadline.’
All remaining areas – barring just 2,000 people on the Isles of Scilly, who remain in Tier 1 – are being escalated to Tier 3, including Liverpool, which had a rapid testing pilot previously touted as an example of how to cope with the disease and keep cases down.
Meanwhile, secondary schools have seen their return delayed even further in January, with most pupils now shut out until at least January 18 – two weeks longer than originally planned – while testing systems are put in place.
Hundreds of primaries in the ‘highest infection’ areas will also not fully reopen from January 4, while secondaries will have to wait until the next tier review in two weeks to learn whether they must stay shut indefinitely.
Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are already in the midst of their own clampdowns amid fears over the more infectious ‘mutant’ strain that is running riot.
The seriousness of the situation was underlined last night as the UK recorded another 50,023 cases – a jump of a quarter over the same day last week – and 981 deaths, the highest since April.
At a Downing Street press conference, Mr Johnson and deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam made clear that hopes for a return to normality now hang on massively scaling up the vaccine rollout, after the Oxford University/AstraZeneca jab received approval from regulators.
However, even if the government manages to crank up vaccinations to two million doses a week, it will still take months to cover enough of the population to ease restrictions safely.
Matt Hancock has admitted that just 530,000 jabs will be available on Monday when they start being administered.
In another miserable signal, Mr Johnson warned that the public ‘should not, in any way think that this is over’ due to the positive news on vaccines as ‘the virus is really surging’.
‘We have to face the fact that we’ve got two big things happening at once in our fight against Covid – one’s working for us and one’s working against us,’ the PM said.
‘On the plus side we have got two valid vaccines, and we’re racing to get them out – and on the bad side there is a new strain of the virus which is spreading much faster and surging across the country.’
Referring to the new tier measures, Mr Johnson said: ‘At this critical moment, with the prospect of freedom within reach, we’ve got to redouble our efforts to contain the virus.
‘No-one regrets these measures more bitterly than I do, but we must take firm action now.’
He added: ‘We must face the reality, the sheer pace of the spread of this new variant, requires us now to take even tougher action in some areas, and that does affect schools.’
Professor Jonathan Van Tam, deputy chief medical officer, said: ‘Unfortunately it is a pretty grim and depressing picture at the moment.’
He added that the NHS had yet to see the impact of mixing during the festive period.
‘The situation in the UK is precarious in many parts already, the South East and London,’ he said.
‘It is almost certainly true that the NHS has not yet seen the impact of the infections that will have occurred during mixing on Christmas Day and that is also unfortunately rather sobering.’
Professor Van Tam added that members of the public had ‘just got to play your part from bringing us back from this very dangerous situation’.
In other coronavirus news:
- Primary schools in hard-hit Tier 4 areas in London, Kent, Essex, Buckinghamshire and East Sussex will remain closed in January to try and control the spread of coronavirus, but they will reopen in all other parts of England;
- Most secondary schools will remain closed in England until January 18;
- Professor Jonathan Van-Tam has warned people getting vaccinated against Covid-19 to keep following social distancing rules because there’s no proof the jab stops people transmitting the virus;
- An intensive care doctor has blamed ‘badly behaved’ members of the public who refuse to wear masks and wash their hands for the resurgence of the coronavirus;
- Critically ill hospital patients in London are being ‘evacuated’ to different parts of the country to free up bed space, according to reports;
- The approval of the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine means it will be given out from Monday, January 4, but Health Secretary Matt Hancock said there will only be 530,000 doses available in the first wave of jabs.
Just 2,000 people on the Isles of Scilly are left in Tier 1 – with everyone else in England now under the highest Tier 3 and 4 lockdowns from midnight
Pointing to rapidly increasing infections thought to be driven by the mutant Covid, Mr Hancock told the Commons yesterday: ‘Sharply rising cases and the hospitalisations that follow demonstrate the need to act where the virus is spreading.’
He said the majority of new cases recorded yesterday ‘are believed to be the new variant’.
Mr Hancock added: ‘Unfortunately, this new variant is now spreading across most of England and cases are doubling fast.
What areas went into Tier 3 today?
Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin
Worcestershire (Bromsgrove, Malvern Hills, Redditch, Worcester, Wychavon, Wyre Forest)
Liverpool City Region (Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, Sefton, Wirral, St Helens)
York & North Yorkshire (Scarborough, Hambleton, Richmondshire, Selby, Craven, Ryedale, Harrogate, City of York)
Bath and North East Somerset
Devon, Plymouth, Torbay (East Devon, Exeter, Mid Devon, North Devon, South Hams, Teignbridge, Torridge, West Devon, Plymouth, Torbay)
‘It is therefore necessary to apply Tier 4 measures to a wider area, including the remaining parts of the South East, as well as large parts of the Midlands, the North West, the North East and the South West.’
Delivering more bad news, Mr Hancock said almost all the country will be in the top two local lockdown brackets.
The approval of the AstraZeneca vaccine was a desperately needed boost after the country racked up a record 50,000 daily cases on Tuesday.
Mr Hancock insisted a rapid rollout of the jab now offers ‘high confidence’ the pandemic will be past within months.
The UK has ordered 100million doses of the vaccine. Supplies were due to arrive on Wednesday or today and the first jabs are set to start on Monday.
Two doses are needed to get long-term protection, but Mr Hancock revealed that the stocks could be spread more widely than anticipated as the MHRA has advised that the gap between the first jab and the second jab can be extended from four weeks to 12 weeks.
The same rule will be applied to the Pfizer jab already approved in early December, despite there being no evidence that it will work as well if used this way and the manufacturer hitting back against the policy.
This has raised the prospect that more Britons could be given a single dose soon to ease the pressure on the NHS from rampant infections. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has been calling for all available stocks to be used for single doses, with the booster follow-up being delayed.
However, Mr Hancock dodged saying whether he believed the numbers being vaccinated could be scaled up to the two million a week scientists say is needed.
And alongside the positive news he delivered a stark warning that the country still faced a tightening of the brutal lockdown from Thursday.
Mr Hancock said the Oxford/AstraZeneca decision meant Britain can ‘accelerate the vaccine rollout’ and ‘brings forward the day when we can get our lives back to normal’, adding: ‘We will be able to get out of this by the spring.’
He told Sky News: ‘It is going to be a difficult few weeks ahead.
‘We can see the pressures right now on the NHS and it is absolutely critical that people follow the rules and do everything they can to stop the spread, particularly of the new variant of this virus that transmits so much faster.
UK ‘could vaccinate 24million by Easter’
Britain could vaccinate 24million people against coronavirus by Easter after the game-changing Oxford University/ AstraZeneca jab was approved this morning and its makers promised to deliver 2million doses a week.
In a massive boost to ending the pandemic within months, the UK medical regulator green-lit the vaccine, which is cheap, easy to transport to care homes and protects 70 per cent of people after just 21 days.
Regulators are now recommending the jab is given in two doses three months apart, rather than over a four-week period, allowing millions more to be immunised over a shorter time period.
Britain has already ordered 100million doses and injections are due to start on Monday, but ministers now face the mammoth challenge of trying to vaccinate 2million people a week to curb the spread of a highly-infectious mutant strain racing across the country.
During a round of interviews this morning, AstraZeneca boss Pascal Soriot promised the firm will be able to hit the ambitious target of delivering 2million doses a week by mid-January, while Matt Hancock claimed the NHS could deliver the jab ‘at the pace AstraZeneca can manufacture’ and insisted the bold aim was ‘absolutely deliverable’. But he refused to commit to an actual figure.
There will be doubts about whether scaling up vaccinations so significantly in a matter of weeks is possible given that only about 280,000 Brits are being inoculated against Covid each week and NHS workers — who play a critical role in administering the vaccines — are dealing with record numbers of hospital patients. Mr Hancock has also repeatedly failed to hit numerous targets throughout the pandemic, including goals to ramp up test capacity.
Top experts, including members of SAGE, have warned ministers they need to ramp up weekly vaccination rates seven-fold by mid-January to prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed this winter. The new strain of Covid has caused a sharp spike in infections and, while it doesn’t appear more deadly, it spreads more easily than the regular virus which increases the overall volume of people falling ill and needing hospital care.
Wednesday’s approval only applies to two full doses and not the half-dose, full-dose regimen that scientists claimed was up to 50 per cent more effective, with regulators admitting there was not enough data to approve the latter tactic. But it still significantly increases the likelihood of the Government achieving the target because, unlike the Pfizer jab, Oxford’s can be stored in a normal fridge which makes it easier to transport to care homes and GP surgeries.
‘But we also know that there is a route out of this. The vaccine provides that route out. We have all just got to hold our nerve over the weeks to come.’
Asked if he could provide a timeline for when under-50s without pre-existing conditions may be vaccinated, Mr Hancock told Times Radio: ‘It depends on the speed of manufacture, I wish I could give you a date, your invitation right now, but we can’t because it depends on the speed of the manufacture.
‘This product, it’s not a chemical compound it’s a biological product so it’s challenging to make, so that is the rate-limiting factor in terms of the rollout.
‘Now that we have two vaccines being delivered we can accelerate, how fast we can accelerate will be determined by how fast the manufacturers can produce.
‘But what I can tell you is that I now have a very high degree of confidence that by the spring enough of those who are vulnerable will be protected to allow us to get out of this pandemic situation.
‘We can see the route out and the route out is guided by this vaccine and that’s why this is such good news for everyone.’
Former PM Mr Blair welcomed the fact that the government seemed to be following his blueprint of using the available stocks to give a single dose to as many people as possible.
‘The trial results make the case for using all available vaccines to vaccinate people with the first dose, without holding back a second dose for each person, overwhelming,’ he said.
‘The first dose gives a high level of immunity – enough to halt hospital admissions – and the second dose is in any event at its most effective 2/3 months after the first, by which time we will have extra supplies of the vaccine to cover second doses.
‘In addition, the Government should consider urgently: acceleration of the vaccination programme. Of course, 1m vaccinations a week is remarkable by normal standards.
‘But given the rates of transmission and the costs of lockdown, we need to do much more. Given the advantages of the AstraZeneca vaccine in terms of simplicity to administer – like the flu jab – we should surely be using every available potential resource including all pharmacies, occupational health capacity and those suitable to be trained fast to administer vaccines and increase the rate of vaccination.
‘And we should think about greater flexibility in the plan, with vaccination of groups most likely to transmit the virus and hotspot areas as well as age and vulnerability.’
The Oxford/AstraZeneca jab, which has been described as a ‘game changer’, was given the green light by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said yesterday: ‘The Government has today accepted the recommendation from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to authorise Oxford University/AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine for use.
‘This follows rigorous clinical trials and a thorough analysis of the data by experts at the MHRA, which has concluded that the vaccine has met its strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness.’
AstraZeneca said it aimed to supply millions of doses in the first quarter of next year as part of an agreement with the Government to supply up to 100million doses.
AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot said on Wednesday: ‘Today is an important day for millions of people in the UK who will get access to this new vaccine. It has been shown to be effective, well-tolerated, simple to administer and is supplied by AstraZeneca at no profit.’
HOW DO THE OXFORD, MODERNA AND PFIZER/BIONTECH VACCINES COMPARE?
Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech have both released interim results of the final stage clinical trials of their vaccines, with both suggesting they are extremely effective.
Oxford University has published the findings from its second phase, which show the jab provokes an immune response and is safe to use – it is not yet clear how well it protects against coronavirus in the real world.
Here’s how they compare:
PFIZER (US) & BIONTECH (DE)
OXFORD UNIVERSITY (UK)
How it works:
mRNA vaccine – Genetic material from coronavirus is injected to trick immune system into making ‘spike’ proteins and learning how to attack them.
mRNA vaccine – both Moderna’s and Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccines work in the same way.
Recombinant viral vector vaccine – a harmless cold virus taken from chimpanzees was edited to produce the ‘spike’ proteins and look like the coronavirus.
How well does it work?
94.5% effective (90 positive in placebo group, 5 positive in vaccine group) .
95% effective (160 positive in placebo group, 8 positive in vaccine group).
62% – 90% effective, depending on dosing. Average 70.4%.
How much does it cost?
Moderna confirmed it will charge countries placing smaller orders, such as the UK’s seven million doses, between £24 and £28 per dose. US has secured 100million doses for $1.525billion (£1.16bn), suggesting it will cost $15.25 (£11.57) per dose.
The US will pay $1.95bn (£1.48bn) for the first 100m doses, a cost of $19.50 (£14.80) per dose.
Expected to cost £2.23 per dose. The UK’s full 100m dose supply could amount to just £223million.
Can we get hold of it?
UK has ordered five million doses which will become available from March 2021. Moderna will produce 20m doses this year, expected to stay in the US.
UK has already ordered 40million doses, of which 10million could be available in 2020. First vaccinations expected in December.
UK has already ordered 100million doses and is expected to be first in line to get it once approved.
What side effects does it cause?
Moderna said the vaccine is ‘generally safe and well tolerated’. Most side effects were mild or moderate but included pain, fatigue and headache, which were ‘generally’ short-lived.
Pfizer and BioNTech did not produce a breakdown of side effects but said the Data Monitoring Committee ‘has not reported any serious safety concerns’.
Oxford and AstraZeneca said there are no serious safety concerns about the vaccine. Phase three trial saw three out of 23,745 participants have ‘serious adverse events’ that were ‘possibly’ linked to the vaccine. All three have recovered or are recovering, and remain in the trial.
Professor Andrew Hayward, an epidemiologist at University College London and member of SAGE, has warned the country is entering a ‘very dangerous new phase of the pandemic’.
He called for ministers to ‘learn the lessons’ of earlier waves, when the Government was criticised for being too slow to lockdown, and to act early this time.
Calling on the Government to take swift action to curb the spread of the virus, Professor Hayward said yesterday: ‘I think we are entering a very dangerous new phase of the pandemic and we’re going to need decisive, early, national action to prevent a catastrophe in January and February.
‘A 50 per cent increase in transmissibility means that the previous levels of restrictions that worked before won’t work now, and so Tier 4 restrictions are likely to be necessary or even higher than that.
‘I think we’re really looking at a situation where we’re moving into near lockdown, but we’ve got to learn the lessons from the first lockdown.’
Professor Hayward said the rise in cases was ‘very largely driven’ by the new, more infectious variant of coronavirus, and suggested that allowing pupils to return to schools would mean stricter restrictions in other areas of society.
He said: ‘We’ve had control measures that were previously controlling the old variant are not enough for this variant.
‘And so if we want to control the new variant we are going to need much tighter restrictions.’
Professor Hayward said he thought schools would have to return ‘maybe a little bit later’ but that it would mean ‘we’re going to have to have increased, strict restrictions in other areas of society to pay for that’.
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