COVID-19: UK ‘dilly-dallying’ into Christmas lockdown as hospitals ‘barely coping’

Covid restrictions: Boris Johnson quizzed on wearing facemasks

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Professor Steven Reichner told Sky News that vaccines are “not quite enough” and urged the government to take more action to avoid much tougher restrictions later down the line. The concerns were also expressed by Professor Peter Openshaw, a fellow government scientific adviser, who said he was “very fearful” of another “lockdown Christmas”.

He added that hospitals in the UK are “barely coping”.

This comes as the UK recorded 52,009 new Covid cases and 115 deaths within 28 days of a positive test on Thursday.

This is the first time in three months that UK Covid cases have topped more than 50,000.

Mr Openshaw advocated for increased measures such as working from home and mask-wearing.

But Downing Street insisted there was spare capacity in the NHS and that the fallback Plan B, which would also involve work from home guidance and mandatory mask-wearing, would only be triggered if it came under “significant pressure”.

However, scientific advisers have urged the government to begin preparations for Plan B restrictions now, so that the measures “can be ready for rapid deployment if required”.

SAGE member Prof Reicher told Sky News: “The vaccine is wonderful. The vaccine confers a huge advantage and everyone should get vaccinated but on its own, it’s not quite enough, we need other protections.

“If we don’t have those other protections now, as happened last year if we wait and allow things to run out of control, we will need later restrictions.

“It’s remarkable we are in a situation where the government’s own public health leaders are giving advice which is at odds with what the government is actually doing.

“We need to act now. If we don’t protect people now with light measures we will have to restrict them later with heavier measures.

“I get a sense we are rather dilly-dallying into lockdown.”

The comments were echoed by Prof Openshaw, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG).

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Speaking to the BBC, he said: “I’m very fearful that we’re going to have another lockdown Christmas if we don’t act soon.

“We know that with public health measures the time to act is immediately. There’s no point in delaying.

“If you do delay then you need to take even more stringent actions later.”

He added that it was “unacceptable to be letting this run at the moment.”

“I think the hospitals in many parts of the country are barely coping actually.

“Talking to people on the front line, I think it’s just not sustainable to keep going at this rate.

“We need to slow down transmission and really redouble efforts to get everyone vaccinated and all the boosters out, and then we can open up again.”

The last time UK Covid cases rose above 50,000 was on 17 July 2021, which came several weeks after hospitality resumed and more households could mix together.

NHS chief Amanda Pritchard called the coming months a “critical period”, as, in Winter, the “cruel virus spreads more easily”.

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