Drastic ‘Asia-style’ lockdown needed to tackle new Covid variant, scientists demand
Paramedics transport a patient from an ambulance at the Royal London Hospital (Image: Reuters)
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Scientists are demanding a drastic Asia-style lockdown after claims the current one is too soft to stop the mutant Covid variant.
They want to see empty hotels used for mandatory isolation and compulsory mask-wearing in public.
Nurseries and places of worship must also close now, they say.
It comes as:
- Almost 60,000 new cases were recorded yesterday and 1,035 deaths.
- The UK became the first country in Europe to surpass 80,000 deaths.
A new variant of the virus, which is 50% more infectious, spreads like wildfire across the country.
Professor Deenan Pillay said hospital capacity was at risk “due to a year of sub-optimal response from Government”
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UK coronavirus death toll hits 80,000 after 1,035 die in second biggest Saturday rise
After England went into a third national lockdown on Wednesday, Boris Johnson said medics were racing to give “tens of millions” of Brits the Covid jab by April.
But with hospitals at breaking point with over 32,000 virus patients, the PM was last night accused of doing too little, too late to help protect the NHS.
In parts of London, one in 15 people are thought to be infected and leaked documents say the capital’s intensive care units could be overwhelmed within days.
Independent Sage member, Prof Deenan Pillay, said hospital capacity was at risk “due to a year of sub-optimal response from Government.”
Fellow member Anthony Costello, a professor of global health at UCL and a former WHO director, said that only “a total clampdown” would be enough to stop the virus.
He said: “We are in a national crisis with a pandemic out of control.
“We should have no nurseries open, no synagogues, no churches, no mosques. We should have com-pulsory masks, two-metre distancing.
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“We have to take this really seriously – that’s what Asian states did.
“The longer we allow it to go on transmitting, the quicker we are going to get a resistant virus to a vaccine, then we are in real doo-doo.”
Christina Pagel, professor of operational research at University College London, said “the chances are quite high” the current measures will fail.
“Key workers now seem to be anyone who feels like it,” she said.
“Schools are 50% full, nurseries are open, places of worship… you have support bubbles, so there is a lot more mixing than in March.
“We have to start thinking about mandatory isolation, like in China and Vietnam. We have lots of empty hotels. We could use that space.”
Government messaging telling people to stay in a near-deserted Haymarket in London
In Wuhan a year ago, officials carried out door-to-door checks and forced ill people to isolate.
In Vietnam, anyone entering the country or who had contact with a confirmed case, was sent to a quarantine centre for 14 days.
The country, which has had just 35 Covid deaths in a population of 97 million, brought in early travel restrictions, shut schools for months and started a vast contact-tracing operation.
Prof Pagel said the Government should at least pay infected people a living wage to self-isolate, as lack of cash was forcing many to not do so.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson shows the strain during a media briefing this week
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, of the British Medical Association, said the Government had been “a step behind” from day one.
Confidential NHS information seen by the Sunday Mirror shows that in a best case scenario, there could be at least 2,300 people in intensive care in London next week.
One consultant said: “The thought we might need to ventilate 2,300 patients is mind-boggling. I don’t think we can do it.”
Labour Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said a full lockdown “should have come sooner” and Britain was “paying a devastating price” for Boris Johnson’s “dither and delay”. Last night, a Government spokesman said 1.5million people had now received a first vaccine dose.
He added: “We have taken advice from scientific and medical experts throughout.
“As new evidence has emerged, we have adapted our approach and taken swift action.”