A TWO-WEEK circuit break lockdown in September “would have saved thousands of lives and livelihoods”, one expert has claimed.
Scientists advised the government to impose a lockdown in September to curb the spread of Covid-19 and experts have now said the government has “underestimated the virus”.
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Instead of a full lockdown, the government introduced a tier system, which saw the country split into three different tiers, depending on how bad the virus had spread in each area.
Professor Andrew Hayward, professor of infectious diseases epidemiology at University College London, and a member of the Government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) advisory committee said a two-week lockdown would have caused less damage to the economy.
On Saturday night Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed the nation after details of a second lockdown were leaked to the media.
Mr Johnson revealed that a four week lockdown would be imposed – closing pubs, restaurants and all non-essential shops.
Schools will remain open under the new rules which have been implemented in order to help drive the virus down.
Prof Hayward also highlighted that keeping schools open could ultimately lead to a longer lockdown.
Yesterday cases rose by 23,254 – the highest daily spike ever recorded on a Sunday.
Another 162 deaths were confirmed, bringing the total number of Covid fatalities in Britain to 46,717.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, Prof Hayward said: “Well, we can’t turn back the clock.
“But, I think if we had chosen a two-week circuit-break at that time we would definitely have saved thousands of lives and we would have inflicted less damage on the economy than the four week lockdown.”
Prof Hayward was speaking in a personal capacity and said the government should have heeded the advice given by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage).
In documents dated October 14, Sage warned: “We are breaching the number of infections and hospital admissions in the Reasonable Worst Case planning scenario.
“The number of deaths is now in line with the levels in the RWC and is almost certain to exceed this within the next two weeks.”
Scientists highlighted that if infections were to fall in the “very near future”, we might only see deaths exceed the worst case scenario for three to four weeks.
Sage added: “But if R remains above 1 then the epidemic will further diverge from the planning scenario.”
On September 21 Sage held a meeting where they recommended a circuit-break lockdown during half term.
Ministers dismissed the circuit break lockdown.
Prof Hayward was in attendance at the meeting and said he felt that some European countries had failed to control the virus.
He said:”I think countries like ours that have failed to control Covid have seen they have the highest death rates and the greatest impact on the economy.
“And, I think we have repeatedly underestimated Covid and done too little too late, really, to control the virus and save both lives and livelihoods.”
He said there was a high degree of certainty that lives could have been saved.
“We know that this sort of measure, whereby we shut down multiple areas of transmission at the same time is the single most effective way of stopping the virus from spreading.
“We know very clearly that the earlier you do that the more lives you will save, so the actions we take now effect the deaths that we see in three weeks or a months time or beyond.
“Early action is essential and waiting to see if less intense measures are going to work is a dangerous was to do things”.
Asked about whether or not schools should be closed he said it was clear that there is substantial transmission within secondary schools.
He said: “We are needing to prioritise education and we know that children who are infected in schools are unlikely to have severe consequences.
“One consequence of not closing them might mean we are in lockdown for longer than we might need to be”, he added.