A former chief scientific adviser has said the UK is “on the edge of losing control” of coronavirus (Covid-19). The public has been urged to act “in tune” with coronavirus guidelines before the “rule of six” restrictions come into force on Monday 14 September.
The call came as former chief scientific adviser and member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) Mark Walport said the only way to stop the virus spreading is to reduce the number of people with whom we all come into contact. He added that there is an “extremely strong argument” that home working should continue.
Tough new coronavirus lockdown measures were announced for parts of the UK on Friday 11 September. They come as cases continued to rise and the R number – the reproduction number of coronavirus transmission – climbed above one. New measures banning people from mixing in homes and gardens will be imposed on Birmingham, Solihull, and Sandwell from Tuesday 15 September. These are in response to a rocketing infection rate in the area.
When asked whether the UK was still in control of the spread of the virus, Walport said:
I think one would have to say that we’re on the edge of losing control.
He told the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:
You’ve only got to look across the Channel to see what’s happening in France, what’s happening in Spain. The French on Thursday had 9,800 new infections and one can see their hospital admissions and indeed their intensive care admissions are going up.
The short answer is the only way to stop the spread of this infection is to reduce the number of people we all come into contact with, that lowers the risk.
It’s a very very fine balancing act, it’s very important to get youngsters back to school, people to university, but it means we’re going to have to hold back our contacts in other areas.
The professor said he was “definitely” still working from home, and told the programme:
Where people can work from home there’s an extremely strong argument that they should do so.
Blaming the public
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove urged people to act “in tune with” the rules this weekend, telling BBC Breakfast:
If people do behave in a way that is not really in line or in tune with the guidelines that have been put out, then they are putting other people at risk.
The reason why the country’s police chiefs have said that they hope people behave with appropriate restraint this weekend is we do not want to see a further acceleration of the spread of the virus.
He denied that the government was losing control of the virus. “No. I don’t accept that,” he said.
The @NHSCOVID19app will be available nationally across England and Wales on 24 September.
This follows trials with residents on the Isle of Wight and the London Borough of Newham, and with @NHSVolResponder
— Department of Health and Social Care (@DHSCgovuk) September 11, 2020
Gove said Walport’s warning is a “warning to us all”, telling the Today Programme:
I think Sir Mark’s words – he’s a very distinguished scientist – is a warning to us all.
There’s a range of scientific opinion but one thing on which practically every scientist is agreed is that we have seen an uptick in infection and therefore it is appropriate we take public health measures.
Asked whether the government should consider a carrot and stick approach, with better financial support for those self-isolating as well as fines for breaches, Gove told the Today programme: “I think it is a very fair point”.
Meanwhile, Boris Johnson is considering plans to fine people who breach self-isolation rules.
Elsewhere, health secretary Matt Hancock appeared in a video on TikTok which was posted on the TikTok_uk account. In the video, he says that “no matter what your age it’s incredibly important that you follow the rules” to keep the virus under control.
Coronavirus cases in the UK have risen to the highest level since mid-May, with a total of 3,539 new cases recorded on 11 September. It’s the highest daily figure since 17 May. Public Health England’s medical director Professor Yvonne Doyle warned that it is a reminder of the “ongoing risk as the virus spreads throughout the UK”.
The figure rose sharply from 2,919 the previous day. Most cases are people who’ve been tested in the community.
Data released by the Government Office for Science and Sage showed the estimate for the R value across the UK is between 1.0 and 1.2.
According to government advisers, the last time R was above one was in early March.
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?