Sage members have reportedly calculated that more than 7,000 lives could be be saved if schools are closed and people are ordered to stay at home for a fortnight from October 24.
Their conclusions are to be published in a paper today, after Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called for a short and sudden lockdown, warning that drastic short-term measures were needed to prevent a “sleepwalk into a long and bleak winter”.
It comes as the Government’s new three-tier coronavirus system comes into force in England, with London and other areas set to move into higher risk categories “within days” as Covid-19 cases continue to surge across the country.
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Circuit-breaker would ‘buy us more time’
Professor Matt Keeling said a circuit-breaker would “buy us more time” in the struggle to reduce the rising number of infections.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “What we’ve got at the moment is a situation where most areas of the country are facing an exponential rise in cases, and what a circuit-breaker or precautionary break would do is drive down R for that short two-week period.
“It would effectively bide us more time to put other controls in place.
“One of the ways of thinking about this is it kind of takes us back in time to when cases where lower, and therefore gives us opportunities to do other things, it reduces the number of cases as well as leading to a similar decline in hospitalisations and also deaths over a short period.”
Asked about the numbers of lives that could be saved as a result of a circuit-breaker, he said: “We looked at a range of different scenarios, from a relatively low growth rate going forward where we might sort of reduce deaths by a third between now and new year, to some extreme scenarios, which I think are the ones that have been quoted in the papers, which really were if we don’t do anything between now and the new year.”
Put to him that a circuit-breaker “simply postpones” deaths, Prof Keeling said he “completely” agreed with that but added: “We stress that this is only a short-term measure – it buys us time to put other measures in pla
The stricter the rules, the greater the impact – Sage
Professor Matt Keeling, one of the scientists behind a non-peer-reviewed paper claiming a circuit-breaker lockdown could save lives, said the “stricter the restrictions, the greater the impact”.
The member of the Government’s Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M) told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “What we are talking about is a two-week period of intense control of some form.
“We looked at a range of things, basically from a lockdown that was seen in April-May through to the milder restrictions that were in place in June.
“The stricter the restrictions, the greater the impact.
“So we’re not advocating any one policy in this paper, we are just looking at a range of things.
“We were thinking to coincide with half-term to minimise any impact on education and then it is a political decision balancing economics against health.”
Wales to decide on further action later this week
The Welsh Government will look at the coronavirus figures in Wales during the rest of this week to decide whether a circuit-breaker lockdown is necessary, First Minister Mark Drakeford has said.
Mr Drakeford told Sky News: “We have other measures in place already, which may be helping us to begin to turn the tide.
“I want to see whether there is further evidence of that. If there’s not, if numbers continue to rise, then we will have to take further action.”
The First Minister said coronavirus had been more “effectively suppressed” in Wales than in some other parts of the UK.
“But we want to act now in order to prevent the worst from happening, to give us a better chance of getting through the rest of the autumn and the winter, and if a circuit-breaker is the right way to do it then that is what we will do,” he told Sky News.
“We’re very actively talking about and preparing for that should it be necessary.”
Mr Drakeford said “detailed work” was ongoing to allow Wales to take the same decision as Northern Ireland if figures continued to go “in the wrong direction” this week.
“I’m not announcing it today but I do want people to know we are planning very seriously, so if we do need to do it we’ll be in a position to do it and in a position to do it quickly,” he said.
Manchester ‘won’t accept’ Tier 3 restrictions – mayor
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said the Government “has not discussed” whether his area will be moved into Tier 3 status later today.
He tweeted: “Since one meeting on Friday, the Government has not discussed these matters with us.
“Instead, the pressure is being piled on via media briefings.
“Later today I will set out why the current Tier 3 proposal is fundamentally flawed and why we won’t accept it.”
Wales ‘actively preparing’ for circuit-breaker lockdown
The Welsh Government is “very actively talking about and preparing for” a circuit-breaker lockdown in Wales, First Minister Mark Drakeford has said.
Mr Drakeford told Sky News that “detailed planning” was under way to establish what measures would be put in place during a circuit-breaker, how long it would last for, how schools would be treated and how to come out of it.
He said comments by Therese Coffey about a circuit-breaker not being the right move “fly in the face of the advice of Sage”.
“I don’t think it is sensible for the UK Government to dismiss that idea, they ought to sit down with everybody, look at it seriously and then make a proper decision,” Mr Drakeford said.
Londoners, here’s a roundup of everything you need to know about the current restrictions, and how they might soon change…
It’s a shame the PM isn’t following Starmer’s lead – Labour
Rachel Reeves, addressing the criticism levelled at Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer by a Government source on Tuesday, that he was “playing games” with his support for a circuit-breaker, said: “Keir Starmer is showing real leadership and following the science.
“It is a shame the Government is not doing that.
“It is not too late for them to change course, it is not too late for them to do that.
“We urge them, plead with them, to do that because we need to get control of the virus, protect the NHS and get a grip of our failed Test and Trace system.”
She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that financial support should be “put in place so businesses will not be ruined” during any circuit-break lockdown, which the shadow cabinet member argued could help get the R rate back below one.
Labour calls on Government to ‘follow the science’
Rachel Reeves, Labour’s shadow chancellor to the Duchy of Lancaster, said it was a “mistake” by the Government not to follow Sage’s recommendation last month for a short national lockdown.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, she said: “We’ve always tried… to be a constructive Opposition but we think the Government have got it wrong this time.
“The mantra used to be that they were following the science – that no longer seems to be the strategy of the Government and that is a mistake.
“We believe the Government should be following the recommendations of Sage and getting control of the virus and protecting the NHS and using a circuit-break to reset the failed outsourced model of Test and Trace, which just isn’t working, which is contributing to the problems we are in now.
“It is absolutely the case that there is no silver bullet in all of this, you need a whole range of measures.
“A circuit-break is one of the tools in the arsenal that can be used to get control of this virus.”
New restrictions have brought ‘profound changes’ to business landscape
Expressing a determination to work with central Government to protect people’s lives and livelihoods, mayor Andy Street called for four specific measures to assist the hospitality, live events and business tourism sectors.
Monday’s announcement of Tier 2 status for Birmingham, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall, and Wolverhampton had brought about “profound changes” to the business landscape, Mr Street said.
He told Mr Sunak: “I look forward to discussing with you the appropriate support needed in response.”
Tier 2 restrictions could spark ‘domino effect’ across local economies – mayor
West Midlands Mayor Andy Street warned that Tier 2 restrictions imposed on parts of the region’s hospitality sector could lead to “closure by default” for many businesses.
In a letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Mr Street said getting clarity and reassurance on what support his region would receive from the Government was “a matter of urgency.”
The Conservative mayor wrote: “The decision to place the West Midlands into the ‘high’ alert level will critically affect businesses in the hospitality sector.
“Households cannot now mix within these establishments. These firms may not be formally required to close their doors, but they will face significantly reduced patronage.
“Under these new restrictions, many businesses will struggle to cover costs and will have to resort to redundancies. This could amount to a closure by default, if not by law.
“This risks an avoidable domino effect across local economies.”
‘Sage is for scientists,’ says minister in rebuttal of Theresa May suggestion
Therese Coffey said she did not agree with the suggestion from former prime minister Theresa May, reportedly made in a meeting between Boris Johnson and backbench Tory MPs, that business-minded experts should be added to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage).
“Sage is there about the specific element of science,” Ms Coffey told LBC radio.
“The Prime Minister is advised by a number of different people – ministers and also officials – in order to make sure he takes that balanced approach.
“And as this approach is about having social isolation that still allows people to go to school, hospital, work that means we keep the focus as well on economic freedoms, so it is that balance of lives versus livelihoods.
“Sage is the place for scientists not business people.”
On restrictions being escalated in London, Ms Coffey said: “Clearly these infection rates and the escalation of them will be kept under review, usually on a fortnightly basis, and if London needs to go into Tier 2, it may.
“But right now that is not the approach that is being recommended and we need to keep working together to ensure we can keep life as normal as we can.”
Circuit-breaker ‘not the right approach’ – minister
Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said she did not think a circuit-breaker lockdown was the right move.
Asked on LBC radio whether there was appetite in the Conservative Party for a two to three-week lockdown, she said: “No, I don’t.
“The reason being, Parliament has only just voted last night for this national approach of the three tiers with much stronger local measures where they are needed.
“And we need to take communities with us right across the country in having some of the national measures, but frankly the Labour Party was saying 19 out of 20 areas in these lockdowns haven’t made any difference, now they want to see a national lockdown.
“I don’t think it is the right approach. Right now we need to allow this chance for the localised interventions to really have an effect so that together we can be focused on saving lives and livelihoods.”
Ms Coffey said she did not think the Tory MPs who rebelled on the three-tier approach on Tuesday evening would have the whip removed.
Here’s more on the tiered restrictions to which the whole of England is now subject:
As England wakes up to a nation divided into tiers, here’s how to check which restrictions apply to you:
City update: More than 46m takeaways ordered through Just Eat in three months
The owner of online takeaway platform Just Eat has revealed hungry households in the UK ordered 46.4 million takeaways in the three months to the end of September.
Just Eat Takeaway.com said the growth helped the business accelerate away from its competitors, aided by signing up McDonald’s and Greggs to the platform.
The pandemic has also helped, with more families opting to eat in as restrictions increase in the face of a second wave.
Globally, the Dutch-based business saw orders of 151.4 million in the third quarter of 2020, bringing the total to 408.3 million in the first nine months of the year.
City update: Asos profits up 329% in one year
Online fashion group Asos has seen annual profits more than quadruple thanks to cost-cutting action and as customers returned fewer items amid the pandemic.
The firm reported pre-tax profits of £142.1 million for the year to August 31, up 329 per cent from £33.1 million a year earlier, as sales jumped 19 per cent including 18 per cent growth in the UK.
Asos said it had made a “solid start” to the new year and expects ongoing increase in underlying profits.
But it cautioned over the outlook for consumer demand as it said “economic prospects and lifestyles of 20-somethings remain disrupted” due to the coronavirus crisis.
Liverpool’s intensive care beds almost completely full
Councillor Paul Brant, cabinet member for adult health and social care at Liverpool City Council, said intensive care in the city was now at 90 per cent capacity as hospitals looked to deal with the second wave of Covid-19 infections.
Mr Brant told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Our intensive, critical care beds are filling up very fast.
“The most recent figures I’ve seen suggest they are over 90 per cent full and our acute hospital trusts have occupancy levels of Covid-positive patients of over 250.
“At the current rate of increase, we would expect Liverpool to surpass the peak of the first wave probably within the next seven to 10 days.”
Addressing the intensive care situation, he added: “They are not all Covid patients, I should say, but they are running very full and they are running with an increasing number of people who are Covid-positive.”
He added: “It has become clear that the intensity of the demand on hospital services here in Liverpool is crowding out anything other than dealing with Covid.”
Footage shared on social media shows crowds enjoying a last hurrah in Liverpool before the city enters Tier 3 restrictions.
Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey told Kay Burley that the scenes were “irresponsible and really disappointing”.
England is not yet heading towards a full national lockdown in England despite calls for a “circuit breaker”, Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey has said.
“I do not believe that the prime minister wants to set off on a national lockdown, but as ever he is advised by scientists – he takes that decision,” Ms Coffey told Sky News’s Kay Burley.
Asked if England was heading for a national lockdown in the next two weeks, the minister replied: “I don’t believe that is the case but as I say this will continue to be a decision that the prime minister will lead on.”
Ms Coffey said the three-tier system of lockdowns announced on Monday should be given a chance to work.
In case you missed it yesterday, here are the latest UK figures:
The UK’s coronavirus death toll has jumped by 143, the highest daily rise since June.
The latest fatalities within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test, reported over the past 24 hours, take the total to 43,018.
The Department of Health confirmed there had been a further 17,234 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK as of 9am on Tuesday.
It brings the total number of cases in the UK to 634,920.
The latest hike in the Covid-19 death toll is the highest since June 10, when 164 were reported, according to Government figures.