UK ‘on the edge of losing control’ of coronavirus, scientist warns
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.
This comes after Boris Johnson encouraged employees to return to offices ahead of an alleged campaign which the government later denied ever existed.
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
Find out more:
— 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.
In July, Gove encouraged employees to return to their offices to “fire up” the economy. Around the same time he argued face masks shouldn’t be mandatory in shops.
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.
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