Lockdown: UK is 'heading in wrong direction' says expert

Christmas easing of the coronavirus tier system is set to go ahead despite widespread concerns about the rising number of fresh COVID-19 cases reported across England in recent weeks. Boris Johnson on Friday did not rule out the possibility of a third coronavirus lockdown being imposed after Christmas but said the Government is working hard to avoid the scenario. But epidemiologist Prof Liam Smeeth noted the fight against the virus is “heading in the wrong direction” and a complete shut down may be needed soon after the holidays are over.

Speaking to Channel 4 News, Prof Smeeth said: “I think he’s right to leave his options open but I do fear we’re heading in the wrong direction in spite of the tier system.

“And I would expect there to be the need for a lockdown after Christmas, yes.”

Asked about the characteristics of a new lockdown, the epidemiologist suggested the measures would likely be the same as the ones adopted before the tiering system was introduced.

Essential shops would be expected to remain open but Britons urged to stay home as much as possible and avoid social contact with other households as much as possible. 

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Prof Smeeth continued: “Similar to the circuit breaker we’ve had, it’s due to have an impact but we started at quite a high level of the circulating virus.

“Although it had an impact, it wasn’t enough to bring it all the way down but quite similar.

“Essential shops open but really, otherwise from that, people staying at home as much as they can and not mixing.

“We know these measures are dreadful for everyone, young and old alike, but we also know they’re working on controlling the virus and getting it back under control.”

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Despite urging people to have a “merry little Christmas”, Mr Johnson will be holding a meeting with ministers on Saturday to consider plans for the exclusion of London and the southeast from the holiday easing.

Coronavirus cases across the Capital have spiked over the past few weeks as have infections in Kent and East Sussex.

East Sussex County Council said on Thursday: “Cases of coronavirus are rising steeply in East Sussex – this number is almost double what we were reporting a week ago.

“Please only make essential journeys and stay home where you can to help us bring the rate back down.”

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A Government source told The Sun: “What we do not know yet is whether the new strain is more or less likely to cause you harm, but what we have learnt is that it will pass to person to person much more easily and that is what we are really worried about.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock last week reported health officials had recorded new Covid cases connected to a more virulent strain of the virus. 

Analysis carried out since the identification of the mutation found it spread easier than previous strains, most prominently across the southeast of England.

A Whitehall insider said: “This is a fluid situation but it’s not looking good and we have to act fast.”

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