The PM has is under fire from all sides of the house over his decision to ignore scientific advice and not implement a short national lockdown. Instead a three tiered system has been brought in for different areas of England.
Now Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer has called on Boris Johnson to impose a short “circuit-breaker” lockdown across England to bring the coronavirus resurgence under control.
Downing Street stressed that economic assessments of lockdowns were also key in the decision making process, moving away from the Government’s ‘following the science’ mantra.
Official papers showed the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) suggested a short national lockdown was needed in England three weeks ago.
“Short, sharp, shock”
Senior Tory Sir Bernard Jenkin earlier said the local advice in his Harwich and North Essex constituency was that a “short, sharp, shock” would be the best way of tackling the pandemic.
The chairman of the Commons’ powerful Liaison Committee told Times Radio: “If we nipped it hard now, we would be well back to manageable levels before Christmas. If we leave it for another five or six weeks, then … the tail of the bell curve goes well into January.”
Professor Andrew Hayward, who sits on Sage, said it was unsurprising that cases were rising with the stricter national measures having so far been ignored.
The UCL infectious diseases specialist told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think it is very disappointing that we had clear advice – we needed to take decisive action several weeks ago.
“And really since that time, all we’ve done is send students back, introduced the rule of six, advised people to work from home if possible but not really promoted that in any real way and closed the pubs an hour early.”
In his most dramatic intervention to date, Sir Keir said a two to three-week national lockdown was needed to improve test and trace and prevent a “sleepwalk into a long and bleak winter”.
He told a televised press conference that Mr Johnson was “no longer following the scientific advice” by proposing “far less stringent restrictions” than suggested by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage).
Sir Keir said: “There’s no longer time to give the Prime Minister the benefit of the doubt. The Government’s plan simply isn’t working. Another course is needed.”
He said schools must stay open but that all pubs, bars and restaurants should be closed during the circuit-breaker, while firms are compensated so “no business loses out” in order to “break the cycle” of infection.
“If we don’t, we could sleepwalk into a long and bleak winter. That choice is now for the Prime Minister to make. I urge him to do so,” Sir Keir said.