A professor sounded the alarm amid claims the UK Government is looking at severe fall-back plans
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The UK is facing a return to « hard lockdown » if people don’t wake up to reality of Covid-19 and follow the rules, a professor who advised the Government has warned.
Peter Openshaw, professor of experimental medicine, Imperial College London, said a « trickle » of cases can turn into a « cascade » if restrictions such as the new rule of six are ignored.
He raised concern after worrying increases in the spread of the lethal virus including in some care homes and among younger people.
Speaking on Sky’s Ridge On Sunday, he said: « We know that these are very vulnerable pockets. It’s not just in the younger people, it’s starting to appear in people more vulnerable and that inevitably is going to be followed by hospital admissions and deaths so we need to act quickly.
“And this isn’t a game. We shouldn’t be out trying to party as hard as we can in the run up to Monday’s lockdown. We should all be really thinking about what we can do now to slow down the spread. »
From Monday, gatherings in Scotland are restricted to two households and up to six people. There are exemptions for the number of children under 12, but they still have to be from no more than two households.
The number is also capped at six in England but they can be from any household – a policy which is also causing alarm among health experts.
Meanwhile, the UK Government sent an alert to care providers in England on Friday to highlight the rising rates and to call for action.
The letter, which was sent on Friday, urges care bosses to « take the necessary action to prevent and limit outbreaks », pointing out that in the past three days there had been an increase in notifications of coronavirus cases in care homes.
Prof Openshaw, who is a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group which advises the Government on the threat posed by new and emerging respiratory viruses, said: « I think everyone is in agreement that we really need to act very quickly now in order to prevent this from growing exponentially.
« I think that’s the main point is that we must act fast because it’s so much harder to get this sort of thing under control if you delay.
« Even a few days is potentially going to be quite dangerous now at this particular moment. »
Sir Mark Walport, former chief scientific adviser and member of the UK’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), has warned that the country is “on the edge of losing control” of Covid-19.
Asked if he thinks Sir Mark is right, Prof Openshaw told Ridge: “Well yes I think that is right.
“It’s a bit like water seeping through a dam, it starts as a trickle and if you don’t do something about it it can turn into a real cascade.”
“If we don’t do this now we’re going to be back in hard lockdown in short order,” he added.
At the same time, the Sunday Telegraph reported that up to 4.5 million people deemed to be at risk of serious illness from Covid-19 will be asked to stay at home again or given tailored advice on protecting themselves if cases rise to dangerous levels.
It was reported Prime Minister Boris Johnson is even considering introducing a 10pm or 11pm curfew in England on restaurants, bars and pubs if local measures are unable to bring the spread of the virus under control.
The move stems from a concern that adherence to social distancing measures diminishes the more people consume alcohol.
Linda Bauld, Professor of Public Health at the University of Edinburgh, said the UK has split from a four-nations approach to tackling coronavirus and suggested measure in England are not tough enough.
She told BBC Breakfast: “In England it’s six people from any household, but then children are included including a baby which doesn’t quite make sense to me, and then in Scotland it’s a maximum of two households.
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