SAGE scientist says Lockdown is too LAX and public is not taking Covid rules seriously


A SAGE scientist has slammed the current nation-wide lockdown as ‘too lax’ – as an intensive care medic warned daily cases will keep ‘rising and rising’ until the NHS can’t copy if people don’t follow the rules.

Professor Susan Michie, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), said the virus thrives in cold weather and people spending more time indoors increases the risk of transmission. 

She said a wide scope for what counts as a key worker means classrooms are nearly half full and public transport is crowded at school pick up and drop off – on top of rush hour for key workers. 

Permitted household contact for certain trades – including non-essential tradespeople or nannies –  also increases the risk of the virus spreading rapidly, the professor said. 

Her call for a lockdown rules change came as an intensive care medic on Britain’s Covid frontline warned that he and his colleagues are ‘extremely worried’ that case totals will keep increasing until the NHS ‘simply won’t be able to cope with it’. 

Stark warnings about the thread of the new Covid variant come as: 

  • Confirmed coronavirus infections hit a record high of 68,053;
  • One in every 15 people in the London borough of Barking and Dagenham may have the virus, according to an official survey;
  • A new highly infectious variant now makes up 81 per cent of cases in the capital;
  • Senior officials warned its virulence meant the current lockdown was likely to be less effective at curbing the virus than the first;
  • More hospitals cancelled other treatments, even cancer operations;
  • Police were put on standby to drive ambulances in London;
  • Constabularies launched a crackdown on lockdown-breakers;
  • A study suggested the Pfizer vaccine works against the new strain;
  • UK regulators approved a third vaccine but it will not be available until spring;
  • Vaccine tsar Kate Bingham vowed the target to inoculate the 13million most vulnerable by February 15 would be met.

A SAGE scientist has slammed the current nation-wide lockdown as ‘too lax’ – as an intensive care medic warned daily cases will keep ‘rising and rising’ until the NHS can’t copy if people don’t follow the rules. Pictured: Overwhelmed doctors and nurses London’s University College Hospital

Permitted household contact for certain trades - including non-essential tradespeople or nannies - also increases the risk of the virus spreading rapidly, the professor said. Pictured: Overwhelmed doctors and nurses London's University College Hospital

Permitted household contact for certain trades – including non-essential tradespeople or nannies – also increases the risk of the virus spreading rapidly, the professor said. Pictured: Overwhelmed doctors and nurses London’s University College Hospital

A member of the public passes the Nightingale Hospital North West in Manchester in October. Boris Johnson last night begged families to stay at home as the Covid-19 death toll hit a grim new record - with the Government launching a new campaign blitz to scare people into obeying lockdown rules

A member of the public passes the Nightingale Hospital North West in Manchester in October. Boris Johnson last night begged families to stay at home as the Covid-19 death toll hit a grim new record – with the Government launching a new campaign blitz to scare people into obeying lockdown rules

Boris Johnson last night begged families to stay at home as the Covid-19 death toll hit a grim new record – with the Government launching a new campaign blitz to scare people into obeying lockdown rules. 

Professor Susan Michie, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), said the virus thrives in cold weather and people spending more time indoors increases the risk of transmission

Professor Susan Michie, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), said the virus thrives in cold weather and people spending more time indoors increases the risk of transmission

England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty has appeared in adverts urging Britons to ‘act like you’ve got’ coronavirus to ‘protect the NHS and save lives’.

Two terrifying new posters also show a patient dying in hospital and a healthcare worker wearing full PPE, warning Britons: ‘If you go out, you can spread it. People will die.’ 

But intensive care consultant Professor Rupert Pearse said Britons are not following the rules like they were ‘in the first wave’ putting enormous pressure on the NHS. 

Professor Pearse said: ‘I’m very worried that we’ve reached the peak and we’re really not seeing the kind of behaviour that we saw in the first wave. 

‘And I, and many of my colleagues in medicine, are extremely worried that this third wave is going to carry on rising and rising and that we’ll reach a point that the NHS simply won’t be able to cope with it.’ 

Yesterday he tweeted: ‘Normally we have three intensive care consultants (senior doctors) working on our intensive care unit at any one time. Today we have ten, each leading an entire ICU team.

‘The response is inspirational but the need is just awful. So please, hands, face, space. Help us help you.’  

It was also claimed yesterday that overwhelmed London hospitals have begun ‘triaging’ coronavirus patients and rationing intensive care resources as the rapid spread of the new variant wreaks havoc.

Doctors in the capital said a critical shortage of beds meant some hospitals were implementing emergency guidelines to prioritise treatment for patients with the best survival chances.

This means younger patients will be offered critical care over the elderly, who are less likely to survive. 

Professor Michie, professor of health psychology at University College London, told Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘When you look at the data, it shows that almost 90% of people are overwhelmingly sticking to the rules despite the fact we’re also seeing more people out and about.

‘I think one of the explanations for that is that actually this is quite a lax lockdown because we’ve still got a lot of household contact, people go in and out of each other’s houses.

Police will focus on enforcing the lockdown rules rather than explaining them to public 

Police are now focusing more on enforcing the lockdown rules rather than explaining them to people in efforts to arrest the spiralling number of coronavirus cases across the country. 

Derbyshire Police faced criticism yesterday for taking the lockdown crackdown too far after officers swooped on two friends for driving just seven miles to go for a walk at a beauty spot.

As a result, the ‘intimidating’ force is reviewing its Covid operations after getting clarification about the rules, with West Mercia Police also mocked for threatening to fine people £200 for playing in the snow.

Nevertheless, the message from government sources today is that police should be enforcing rather than explaining rules, now nearly 10 months since the very first restrictions came into effect.

This was echoed by Wiltshire Police’s chief constable, Kier Pritchard, who wrote in the Gazette and Herald:  ‘Although we will continue to police with consent and in a proportionate way, my officers will move to enforcement much quicker when confronted with people clearly breaching the rules.

‘Up until now, police forces have focused on engagement, reinforcing the messaging within our communities and encouraging the public to comply in the first instance, only reverting to enforcement when we are faced with deliberate or repeated breaches.

‘We will continue to engage with our communities but my officers will quickly move to enforcement against those who are flagrantly breaching the rules.’

‘If you’re a key nurse, a non-essential tradesperson, a nanny, you have mass gatherings in terms of religious events, nurseries being open and, really importantly, you have this wide definition of critical workers so we have 30 to 50 per cent of (school) classes full-up at the moment and therefore you’ve got very busy public transport with people going to and from all these things.’

Parents were yesterday urged by the Department for Education to ‘honour the spirit’ of the lockdown and keep children at home where possible. 

She added: ‘It is definitely too lax, because if you think about it and compare ourselves with March, what do we have now?

‘We have the winter season and the virus survives longer in the cold, plus people spend more time indoors and we know aerosol transmission, which happens indoors, is a very big source of transmission for this virus.

‘And secondly we have this new variant which is 50 to 70 per cent more infectious. You put those two things together, alongside the NHS being in crisis, we should have a stricter rather than less strict lockdown than we had back in March.’

Professor Michie said the Government should use ‘more support’ for people to adhere to the rules as 10-days isolation could mean someone loses their income over that period.

She also said the Government’s approach to setting out the rules should be ‘more creative and imaginative’ and employ famous public figures to get the message across.

Professor Michie added: ‘What we know from this pandemic is what really motivates people is knowing there’s a really serious threat, knowing that what they do can make a difference and also knowing what they do can protect other people and their communities.

‘The behavioural committee of SAGE says consistently what we need is more support and enablement for people to adhere, not punishment. 

‘For example one area where there’s really poor adherence, and has been throughout, is having to isolate at home for what is now 10 days.

‘Our own data shows only 30 per cent of people with symptoms are staying at home. 

‘The reasons given are they may have caring responsibilities outside the house, they may need to get provisions, or importantly, they have to go out to work to get income.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has issued a plea to families and begged them to stay home to save lives as the UK recorded its highest death toll since the pandemic began today and the NHS launches a new ad campaign fronted by Chris Whitty

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has issued a plea to families and begged them to stay home to save lives as the UK recorded its highest death toll since the pandemic began today and the NHS launches a new ad campaign fronted by Chris Whitty

A commuter wears a facemask as he sits in a bus shelter with signage promoting "Stay Home, Save Lives" in central London

A commuter wears a facemask as he sits in a bus shelter with signage promoting ‘Stay Home, Save Lives’ in central London

Everyone in England is being urged to stay at home and 'act like you've got it' as part of a major advertising campaign. including posters (pictured) encouraging the public to control the spread of the virus and protect the NHS and save lives

Everyone in England is being urged to stay at home and ‘act like you’ve got it’ as part of a major advertising campaign. including posters (pictured) encouraging the public to control the spread of the virus and protect the NHS and save lives

‘What you need to be effective is have people who people trust and identify with. 

Younger patients are being prioritised in overwhelmed London hospitals as the capital rations intensive care resources, say doctors 

Overwhelmed London hospitals have begun ‘triaging’ coronavirus patients and rationing intensive care resources, it has been claimed.

Doctors in the capital said a critical shortage of beds meant some hospitals were implementing emergency guidelines to prioritise treatment for patients with the best survival chances.

This means younger patients will be offered critical care over the elderly, who are less likely to survive.

Dr Katharina Hauck, from the faculty of medicine at Imperial College London, said: ‘Hospitals in London are overwhelmed, which is a dangerous situation for all patients requiring urgent care … Sadly, some hospitals are now forced to follow … emergency triage of all patients requiring critical care.

‘Applying this guidance effectively means that patients under the age of 65 who are not frail will be prioritised over elderly and frailer patients for critical care. Frail patients would be cared for in general wards with less intensive care.’

‘Yes, experts and scientists are trusted a lot more than politicians but we should also think about people from people’s own communities that are respected, particularly young men who find adherence most challenging, and think about who they identify with and respect, and that’s often sports personalities, singers, people from film and television.

‘We should be much more creative and imaginative about the kind of people who are speaking out.’

Fellow SAGE scientist Dr Adam Kucharski said the new coronavirus variant should be treated as a ‘new pandemic within a pandemic’ and warned the peak of Covid deaths will come in ‘the next week or so’.

He said the data showing people’s movements in lockdown show ‘troubling signals’. 

He said: ‘The early signals we’re seeing are suggesting that there is probably less movement in the population than there was in November but perhaps slightly more than there was in April, and obviously that’s concerning because, with this new variant, essentially each interaction we have has become riskier than it was before.

‘Even if we went back to that last spring level of reduction in contacts, we couldn’t be confident we would see the same effects as we saw last year because of the increased transmission.

‘To some extent we can think of this as a new pandemic within a pandemic.

‘From the data coming out, this is a very serious threat and new data from PHE (Public Health England) that came out yesterday suggested that that risk per contact is probably 40 to 50 per cent higher than it was.

‘So both for the UK, and many other countries as well, we need to get away from this idea that we’re going to see a repeat of what happened last spring with our behaviours and really face the possibility that this is much riskier and we’re going to have to work much harder to reduce the impact.’

Last night, Mr Johnson warned that infections were rising at an alarming rate, despite the new national lockdown imposed at the start of the week.

And he warned the only way to prevent thousands more deaths was to follow the rules. The Prime Minister said: ‘I know the last year has taken its toll.

Some schools are still more than HALF full as attendance soars much higher than the first lockdown and key workers are urged NOT to send their children in if they can 

Parents have been urged to not send their children to school if they can help it after attendance rates soared above 50 percent in some areas on England.

Current guidance amid England’s coronavirus lockdown allows any child whose parent is a key worker to attend school, even if their parent works from home. 

But after criticism that the Department for Education’s definition of key workers is too broad, parents have been urged by the department to ‘honour the spirit’ of the lockdown and to keep children at home where possible.

Those who qualify as key workers include workers essential to running the justice system, religious staff, food production workers, charity workers, and some employed by local government, utilities, communications and financial workers.

More than one in 30 secondary school pupils had coronavirus on Christmas day, figures reported by The Times show.

Just two weeks later, one in three schools in the UK had more than 20 per cent of pupils in on Wednesday. 

‘But your compliance is now more vital than ever. Once again, I must urge everyone to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.’

Another 1,325 Covid deaths were reported on Friday – nearly one a minute – and more than the peak of 1,224 in the first wave last April.

The grisly death toll – which has doubled in a week – takes the UK to the brink of almost 80,000 victims. 

Experts fear the daily death counts will continue to spiral because of rocketing cases and hospitalisations, piling further pressure on Boris Johnson to speed up the sluggish vaccination programme designed to start getting  Britain out of lockdown by mid-February.

Department of Health figures show the UK has recorded more than 50,000 cases for 11 days in a row, with the five worst days of the pandemic all occurring since the start of 2021. Cases have risen by almost 30 per cent week-on-week.

But a senior SAGE official today warned the actual number of Britons currently getting infected every day is closer to 150,000, claiming that the size of the second wave is now way worse than the first. 

The source also fears England’s third national lockdown will not ‘slam the R rate down as it did in March’ because the country was dealing with a more infectious mutated strain and because adherence to the rules has dwindled. 

 No10’s advisory panel revealed that the R rate could be as high as 1.4 across the seven regions of England.

Amid calls for even tougher restrictions, ministers are considering making face masks mandatory in busy outdoor locations, such as supermarket queues.

Parents have been urged not send their children to school if they can help it after attendance rates soared above 50 per cent in some areas on England.

Current guidance amid England’s coronavirus lockdown allows any child whose parent is a key worker to attend school, even if their parent works from home.

But after criticism that the Department for Education’s definition of key workers is too broad, parents have been urged by the department to ‘honour the spirit’ of the lockdown and to keep children at home where possible.

Students at Oasis Academy in Coulsdon administer their own Covid tests today. The amount of students in classrooms is far higher than the first lockdown, it has emerged, leading to calls for the definition of key workers to be narrowed and for the Department of Education to encourage parents not to send their children to school if they can avoid it

Students at Oasis Academy in Coulsdon administer their own Covid tests today. The amount of students in classrooms is far higher than the first lockdown, it has emerged, leading to calls for the definition of key workers to be narrowed and for the Department of Education to encourage parents not to send their children to school if they can avoid it 

Hundreds of cancer operations are cancelled in London as hospitals are inundated with Covid patients

Hundreds of cancer operations in London are being cancelled as the city is inundated with Covid patients, according to reports.

Almost half of London’s beds are taken up by the 7,200 Covid patients as Britain endured more than 68,000 new diagnoses of the virus on Friday, with 1,325 more deaths – the highest single day toll so far. 

Doctors and nurses in the capital are being desperately urged to work in east London’s Excel Centre Nightingale hospital, which will aid recovering patients who no longer test positive for coronavirus. 

Hospitals have also been pleading for medical staff to take on extra shifts to help wards short of staff. 

But amid rising numbers of virus patients, most hospital ‘green sites’, meant to be kept Covid-free zones, have been described as ‘compromised’ in a leaked NHS England cancer resilience plan, The Independent reports.

London needs to treat more than 500 cancer patients a week to keep ahead of demand, but just 122 cancer cases have been treated in the capital’s NHS hospitals this week, with 101 in private hospitals, leaving a shortfall of 277 cancer patients whose procedures were delayed, reports say. 

The report said 3,840 patients had already been waiting beyond the 62-day target for their first cancer treatment in London. 

These are ‘priority two’ patients who have to be treated within four weeks or face a risk to life or the loss of a limb.

A senior NHS source said: ‘My concern is that this becomes death by default. Nobody is talking about it or being honest and saying what we can do and are we happy with that loss of life. I’m not clear where the ethical considerations are being discussed.

‘We need to be honest with the public and stop pretending this isn’t happening.’

Those who qualify as key workers include workers essential to running the justice system, religious staff, food production workers, charity workers, and some employed by local government, utilities, communications and financial workers.

More than one in 30 secondary school pupils had coronavirus on Christmas day, figures reported by The Times show.

Just two weeks later, one in three schools in the UK had more than 20 per cent of pupils in on Wednesday.  

Figures from Teacher Tapp showing that 35 percent of primary schools had at least 20 percent of pupils in school, and 15 percent of primaries had at least 30 percent.

Meanwhile, Geoff Barton, general secretary of ASCL, said: ‘We are hearing reports that attendance in some primary schools is in excess of 50 per cent because of demand from critical workers and families with children classed as vulnerable under criteria which has been significantly widened. 

‘We are urgently seeking clarification about the maximum number who should be in school.’

In March, during the first lockdown, only 1 in 100 schools registered more than 20 percent of pupils in attendance on any given day.

Figures from the Office of National Statistics show infections peaked a week after the end of term, with one in 27 secondary and one in 40 primary pupils in England.

In London, the rate was even higher, with one in 18 secondary pupils and one in 23 primary children.

Amid clarion calls from the Government urging Britons to abide by the rules, traffic and footfall has dropped to near-April levels suggesting the country is compliant.

Apple Mobility Trends for London shows driving down by 44 per cent, walking down by 62 per cent and transit down by 68 per cent.

Tom Tom figures also has commuters in the capital driving into work at rush hour as remaining steady at just 25 per cent.

Meanwhile pictures from the Tube this morning showed passengers abiding by the rules and mostly wearing their face coverings. 

In Surrey public health experts are so concerned with the outbreak that vans will be deployed to beauty spots this weekend telling people to stay at home. 

Apple Mobility Trends shows the number of people on the move in London has plummeted back to near April levels.

Driving, walking and transit were all massive down on pre-lockdown three levels and are close to the first shutdown at the end of March.

Separate data from Tom Tom backs up the figures, showing few Londoners are currently on the roads.

Congestion levels have remains low over the last week, rarely spiking above 25 per cent even during rush hour.

The Tube is running at 18 per cent capacity compared to 5 per cent in April, but more trains helps with social distancing.It is also vital to ferry key workers to and from their jobs in industries such as healthcare and construction. 

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