Immediate nationwide circuit breaker must be introduced to UK, Independent SAGE says

Scientists also call for ‘urgent reform’ to track and trace system 

Friday 16 October 2020 15:06 BST
Independent Sage group calls for immediate 'circuit breaker' to halt coronavirus spread

A nationwide “circuit breaker” lockdown should be introduced in the UK to reduce the spread of coronavirus, a group of independent experts has said.

With the UK’s number of daily Covid-19 cases at almost 20,000, the Independent Sage group of scientists has warned that the government’s three-tier coronavirus alert system is “not enough to reverse growth”.

As part of a proposed six-week emergency plan to bring the daily number of infections below 5,000, the group advises that a “circuit breaker” should be imposed for at least two weeks.

Professor Christina Pagel, a scientist from University College London who sits on the Independent Sage committee, said: “Agreeing with SAGE, we believe a sharp national circuit breaker for 2-3 weeks followed by 3-4 weeks of continuing restrictions is needed to stop the current wave in its tracks, preventing tens of thousands of new cases and thousands of hospital stays.

“This will buy us precious time to build a public health and social scaffolding to support easing restrictions and restarting our lives. We must not waste this time.”

Schools, non-essential businesses and hospitality venues should all close for the duration of this lockdown, according to the independent group of scientists.

Financial support should be made available to individuals and businesses affected by the restrictions, the group added.

Independent Sage also recommends a nationwide ban on household mixing and a return to the two-metre social distancing rule, which was downgraded in July to “one metre plus”.

In an online briefing on Friday, the group, which is led by Sir David King, a former chief scientific adviser, will also call for an “urgent reform” to the country’s track and trace system, which it says is “failing” and “causing some of the greatest excess death rates and economic damage anywhere” in the world.

The independent scientists will argue that the UK should emulate the successes of countries such as South Korea, which have put in place effective test and trace strategies.

The UK’s system should be managed by a national body such as NHS England and local Covid-19 offices should be established in every region and run by public health experts.

Independent Sage also wants to see the government’s communications strategy become clearer and more consistent. 

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