Will a second surge of coronavirus lead to a winter lockdown? Ministers are told to prepare for another wave as Government scientists have ‘strong evidence’ the virus flourishes at around 4C
- Scientific advisers have ‘strong’ evidence virus flourishes around an optimal 4C
- They warned this, along with annual NHS pressure, could lead to ‘difficult winter’
- Ministers are aiming to manage any resurgence of virus through local lockdowns
- R rate for England is between 0.8 and 1, up from between 0.8 and 0.9 last week
Ministers have been told to prepare for a surge in coronavirus cases this winter that could trigger a second national lockdown.
The Government’s scientific advisers now have ‘strong’ evidence that the virus flourishes at an optimal temperature of around 4C (39F).
They say this, combined with annual pressures on the NHS caused by seasonal flu, means the UK is heading for a ‘difficult winter’.
Last night, one senior official said: ‘We can get away with a lot at the moment because it is summer.
Ministers have been told to prepare for a surge in coronavirus cases this winter that could trigger a second national lockdown (file photo of a ward at Royal Liverpool University Hospital)
‘It is really important that people get ready for the challenges that winter will undoubtedly bring.’
Ministers are aiming to manage any resurgence of the virus through local lockdowns, such as the one imposed in Leicester last week.
But a senior official said: ‘If the overall numbers increase, then I would expect to have to reimpose some national measures.’
The official added that the Government’s much-maligned test and trace strategy must be working ‘absolutely faultlessly’ by the autumn.
Another lockdown would have devastating economic consequences. It could also hamper Boris Johnson’s plans for all children to return to school although experts on the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) have stressed reopening schools should be a ‘priority’.
Officials said that it is ‘significant’ that the city of Melbourne in Australia, where it is currently winter, had to impose a second lockdown on its five million residents this week.
Ministers are aiming to manage any resurgence of the virus through local lockdowns, such as the one imposed in Leicester, pictured above, last week
The virus survives longer at colder temperatures and people are more likely to gather indoors during winter, which increases the risk of transmission. Yesterday, Sage published figures showing the coronavirus outbreak is still shrinking in the UK, but only very slowly. The reproduction rate – the average number of people each Covid-19 patient infects – is between 0.7 and 0.9 as a whole for the UK, meaning it hasn’t changed in almost two months.
However, the R rate for England is between 0.8 and 1, up from between 0.8 and 0.9 last week.
Office for National Statistics data shows about 14,000 people in England currently have the virus.
But scientists say they would like to push the number of new infections much lower before the winter to increase the UK’s ability to cope with a second wave.
Professor James Naismith, from the University of Oxford, said: ‘These numbers also tell us that we are unlikely to eliminate the virus from the UK before the winter. In any event, the virus has become global. Without a vaccine, we have to plan for its presence.’
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TB jab could offer corona protection
A tuberculosis vaccine that was given to thousands of British children also protects against Covid, a study found.
Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) was first produced in 1924 and given to all teenagers in the UK from 1953 to 2005. The vaccinations stopped when TB – a bacterial lung infection – was effectively eradicated.
Researchers in the US studied countries that have different levels of the BCG jab and found a link between its prevalence and the Covid-19 death rate.
In countries with a 10 per cent higher prevalence of the jab, there was a 10.4 per cent reduction in coronavirus deaths.
This suggests that in the UK, adults aged between 30 and 80 who were given the vaccine at school may have a greater level of protection. The researchers, from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and the National Institutes of Health, considered social, economic, and demographic differences between countries.
BCG is still widely used around the world but in Britain only at-risk individuals, such as babies living with infected relatives, are given the jab.