Government scientists now believe it is inevitable the whole country will end up in lockdown if we are to avoid 800 deaths a day from coronavirus.
The SAGE panel of experts is pushing Boris Johnson to U-turn again and call a national circuit break. They are now convinced that without drastic action every region will eventually end up with at least Tier 3 restrictions anyway.
Sources say is not too late to “save Christmas” but a national lockdown longer than the originally suggested two-week circuit break is required.
The warnings come as Nottinghamshire Police said they had to break up street parties and issued dispersal orders “to ensure people left the city centre”.
Ministers continued to defend the use of local restrictions amid speculation they are considering a more restrictive Tier 4 category.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “We are battling a second wave, and we’re going to do everything we can to bring those numbers back down.”
Asked about the potential for introducing a Tier 4 higher level of restrictions, Mr Raab added: “We’re always ready for further measures.”
Prof Jonathan Van-Tam, the deputy chief medical officer, had publicly backed the PM’s local restrictions at a briefing 10 days ago but has reportedly told ministers he is changing his mind.
Sir Patrick Vallance, chief scientific advisor and head of Sage, is known to be in favour of stricter restrictions than “baseline” Tier 3. Sir Patrick and Chief Medical Officer Prof Chris Whitty are furious their previous warnings of 50,000 new cases and 200 deaths a day were publicly rubbished.
In the last week daily deaths have averaged 230 and yesterday the Office for National Statistics estimated new daily infections of 52,000, the UK recorded 274 more Covid deaths yesterday.
Leaders in Birmingham demanded a national lockdown as the city braces itself to move into Tier 3 as early as next week. Cllr Ian Ward, leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “I am of the opinion England needs to follow France, Germany and Wales with a national circuit-breaker. We must not repeat the mistake of last March in not moving soon enough.”
New papers released yesterday show that since September Sage has advised ministers that on the current trajectory its previous “reasonable worse case scenario” is set to be exceeded.
This had warned of daily direct Covid-19 deaths of more than 500 for at least 90 days, peaking at 800 daily in late February. This put total deaths at 85,000 between July 2020 and March 2021. As a minimum SAGE advisors are now pushing for the immediate closure of pubs and restaurants.
One source said: “It’s definitely too late to think that the two week circuit breaker on its own would sort this.
“Now almost certainly it would need to go on for longer.”
Originally a planned two-week circuit break was suggested for the current half term.
The UK’s latest ‘R’ reproduction value published yesterday dropped slightly to between 1.1 and 1.3. This was down from 1.2-1.4 the week before.
This is thought to be due to the impact of local restrictions but is not enough to get the UK outbreak under control. It came after a leaked report warned that most hospital trusts in Greater Manchester could exceed critical care capacity by next week.
Prof Van Tam gives regular updates on the evolving evidence to ministers and reportedly warned the current tiers system was not enough to “get on top of the numbers”. One proposal is a national shutdown before Christmas to allow it to be lifted so we can see loved ones over the festive period.
Previous modelling from University College London found a fortnight circuit break during school holidays would set the Covid-19 outbreak back a month. It would see the closure of schools, non-essential businesses, leisure and hospitality sectors, as well as online teaching in universities and working from home where possible.
Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer has called for a national circuit break.
Experts think a clear start and end date would minimise the damage to business and people’s mental health.
Health bosses in Liverpool yesterday announced a “glimmer of optimism” as infection rates had fallen. In the seven days up to October 25, Liverpool had an infection rate of 475.5 cases per 100,000 residents, down from 585 for the previous week.
Director of public health Matt Ashton said: “These latest figures give us a glimmer of optimism.
“However, it’s important we’re realistic and know that to get on top of this virus will take time and effort.”