New data shows last grab at freedom before second lockdown ‘may have spread virus’

Diners queuing up outside Yum Cha on Lark Lane on Lockdown Eve (Image: Andrew Teebay/Liverpool Echo)

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The leak of England's second lockdown sparked a flurry of movement that may have spread coronavirus, according to new research.

Travel movement data captured a dramatic increase in people moving on the same day news of a second lockdown was leaked to some newspapers – Saturday, October 30.

The research looked at the CityMapper app for London which showed in just five days, travel had spiked 10 percentage points, and reached the highest level since March 16.

Numbers across the rest of the UK rose sharply too.

On Sunday, October 31 the Prime Minister and his scientific advisors, held a much-delayed televised press conference to confirm the leaked news of the lockdown, was in fact true and would take effect from Thursday, November 5.

People in Liverpool city centre doing some last minute shopping before lockdown
(Image: Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)

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The chair of one of the surveys of the outbreak in England said rumours of lockdown might have increased the number of infections as early as 2 November.

Professor Paul Elliot of Imperial College London, who leads the influential REACT study, said: "There was a lot of speculation.

"It's very tight timing, but something happened."

The lockdown leak saw the movement levels increase, with some hitting the shops to start (or finish) their Christmas shopping.

Google tracked movement right across the country and saw clear rises everywhere in the run up to lockdown, reports Sky News.

It says that from Milton Keynes to Middlesbrough, Wokingham to Worcestershire, Bedford to Blackburn with Darwen, people were out and about in the days before lockdown.

Google movement data from Cambridge, Southampton and Kingston upon Hull – three very different cities – all experienced the same distinct surge, Sky News reports.

It added that that during those five days, the data shows that trips to parks and workplaces remained stable as the jump was in "retail and recreation" – the kind of behaviour which ends up spreading the virus.

Brighton's lanes appear packed with shoppers making the most of the final hours of shopping ahead of lockdown
(Image: Adam Gerrard / Daily Mirror)

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Public health experts fear that if future restrictions are preceded by surges in movement, then they will become harder, and maybe even impossible, to impose.

Professor Paul Hunter of the University of East Anglia in Norwich, said: "It raises concerns that if we're going to impose lockdown, what happens is that people increase sociability and increase transmission, undermining some of the value of lockdown.

"It could make us think twice about future lockdowns if it makes us increase the spread of the disease before lockdown."

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