Coronavirus: ‘Mixed messaging’ from government on lockdown easing is weakening guidance, Sage member says

Warning comes as Metropolitan Police says it is preparing for weekend disorder in London

Conrad Duncan
Friday 26 June 2020 22:22 BST
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'Extraordinarily risky' to lift lockdown measures now, warns David King

“Mixed messaging” on the lifting of lockdown restrictions is weakening its coronavirus guidance, a scientific adviser to the government has said, as police in London warned they were preparing to deal with significant public disorder this weekend.

Robert West, who sits on Sage’s Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours (SPI-B), said attempts by ministers to encourage people to return to shops and pubs had been “problematic” at this stage in the pandemic.

“We’re not very far away from just letting everything hang out and unfortunately the messaging from the government has been very mixed on this,” Mr West told BBC’s Newsnight.

“On the one hand it’s saying, ‘Let us be clear, we’re not out of the woods and we need to be cautious’, but on the other hand they’re using language which is intended, I presume, to be very reassuring because it’s saying, ‘Go to the shops, go to the pub, enjoy yourself, it’s Independence Day'."

His warning came as the mayor of Liverpool said he was not confident that the UK’s contact tracing scheme was effective enough to handle the widespread lifting of restrictions from 4 July.

“I’m not confident that track and trace is anywhere near ready - we’re just working ours through with our public health director and other people,” Joe Anderson told the BBC.

He also claimed that the government had been “slow to react” to requests from local governments for powers to help cities and local authorities intervene quickly if new spikes of cases emerge.

Meanwhile in London, the Metropolitan Police said it would have thousands of officers on duty across the capital to counter the possibility of illegal raves and other unsanctioned events taking place over the weekend.

“We have seen some large numbers of people completely flouting the health regulations, seeming not to care at all about their own or their families’ health and wanting to have large parties," Commissioner Cressida Dick said in a statement.

"It is hot. Some people have drunk far too much. Some people are just angry and aggressive and some people are plain violent. Tell us about unlicensed music events, we will close them down.”

Ms Dick also said police were aware of a number of planned demonstrations set to take place in central London this weekend and advised people against attending such events.

“My message to those considering joining any demonstration this weekend is find another way to make your voice heard,” she said.

“Please consider the danger you are placing yourself and your family in by joining large crowds in a situation where social distancing is all but impossible.”

More than 20 police officers were injured in clashes with members of the public on Wednesday night after hundreds of residents in Brixton defied lockdown rules to attend a party.

Illegal raves and street parties involving large numbers of people have also been broken up in Manchester, Oldham, Leeds and Staffordshire in the last month.

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