Government scientist 'cannot see logic' behind tier four restrictions

A scientist advising the government has said he finds it ‘very hard to see the logic’ behind the decision to plunge millions of people into even tougher tier four restrictions.

Professor Robert Dingwall, who sits on the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG), said evidence presented to them last week showed cases of the new mutant strain of coronavirus ‘have been identified all over the UK anyway’.

Speaking to LBC this morning, he said many on the group ‘would be surprised to see a document that was drafted and unanimously adopted which expressed moderate confidence in the existence of a potential problem was transformed over the course of 24 hours into a national panic’.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Saturday that London and large swathes of the East and South East of England would be moved into a tougher new ‘tier four’ – effectively returning to the lockdown rules last month – amid warnings of the rapid spread of a mutant strain of coronavirus.

Professor Dingwall acknowledged ‘London and the South East are a particular hotspot’, but said NERVTAG ‘made no particular recommendations’ about any control measures to be implemented.

He went on to say he finds it ‘very hard to see the logic’ behind the decision to impose stringent new restrictions in those areas ‘if you recognise that significant numbers of cases were being found all over the country a week, 10 days ago’.

The scientist added: ‘The genie is out of the bottle.’

Professor Dingwall went on: ‘It’s the same frankly with Europe – the only reason many European countries have not recognised the presence of this variant is that they haven’t looked for it.’

Mr Johnson announced over the weekend that the new variant was up to 70% more transmissible than the original strain.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock admitted it was ‘out of control’ and the tier four lockdown may have to remain in place for months.

Mr Johnson will hold crisis talks with ministers after France banned lorries carrying freight from the UK and countries around the world ended flights amid fears over the new mutant coronavirus strain.

The PM will chair a meeting of the government’s Cobra civil contingencies committee on Monday amid warnings of ‘significant disruption’ around the Channel ports in Kent.

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