Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance warned last night the new Covid strain was ‘everywhere’ in the UK and that tougher measures would likely be needed to contain it.
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The UK is sleepwalking into a “human disaster” unless there’s a full New Year lockdown with Tier 4 everywhere, a Sage scientist has said.
Professor Robert West warned the UK was facing potential catastrophe after Christmas as the new strain of the virus continued to spread around the country.
Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance warned last night the new Covid strain was “everywhere” in the UK and that tougher measures would likely be needed to contain it.
Now Sage scientist Professor West, a psychologist at University College London, called for intensified efforts to stop the virus in its tracks.
Professor West said an “economic human and social disaster” would follow unless the Government built up contact tracing systems similar to ones in East Asia.
He told the Guardian: “We need to reset our strategy and move rapidly to a zero Covid strategy of the kind that many have been proposing.
“It sounds expensive but the alternative could well be a catastrophic collapse in confidence in the country’s ability to control the virus and the economic, human and social disaster that would follow.”
He said: “I think it’s clearer to give a consistent national message because although the levels of risk are different in different parts of the country, they’re still there and they’re still substantial.”
Professor John Edmunds, another member of the Sage scientific advisory panel, echoed that view, telling Today: “Unfortunately, it does look like the virus is probably across the country already and so I do think that we might, unfortunately, have to impose tougher restrictions across the country.”
But the chief executive of the pharmaceutical firm behind the vaccine being used in the UK said the company was confident it would work against the new strain.
BioNTech boss Ugur Sahin said “we don’t know at the moment if our vaccine is also able to provide protection against this new variant”, but because the proteins on the variant are 99% the same as the prevailing strains, the firm has “scientific confidence” in the vaccine.
According to the Daily Mail, Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty has warned the Prime Minister that the number of patients in hospital with Covid is on course to match the April peak by New Year’s Eve – and will continue increasing in January.
The Prime Minister, made yet another enthusiastic promise yesterday – denying suggestions a third national lockdown was imminent and insisted it would be a “very different world'” by Easter.
Sir Patrick said of the new strain: “It’s more transmissible, we’ve absolutely got to make sure we’ve got the right level of restrictions in place.”
“I think it is likely that this will grow in numbers of the variant across the country, and I think its likely therefore that measures are going to need to be increased in some places, not reduced.”
Already a third of the country is in Tier 4 – the new highest level of restrictions like lockdown.
In a grave warning, he added: “I think it is a case that this will spread more.”
It came as crisis talks with France continued in an effort to resume trade flows across the Channel amid warnings that the border must be running again by Wednesday to avoid disruption to food supplies.
More than 1,500 lorries are backed up in Kent, unable to make the crossing to France, with drivers having spent a second night sleeping in their cabs.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said the Government is “speaking constantly” with France to achieve a resolution “in both our interests” to get freight moving again.
But she defended the Government’s handling of the pandemic, insisting ministers had been “ahead of the curve” in tackling coronavirus.
More than 40 countries have banned flights from the UK due to a mutant variant of coronavirus spreading through the country, but it is the French decision to also ban hauliers which has caused the greatest concern.
A possible solution could be mass testing of HGV drivers, while the BBC reported that plans to reopen the border will come into effect from Wednesday, citing French Europe Minister Clement Beaune.
Ms Patel told Sky News that talks would continue with France because “it’s in both our interests to carry on those discussions and negotiations and we will see what materialises today”.
The Home Secretary said that 650 lorries were queued on the M20 with 873 at a former airfield site in Manston, Kent.
She defended the response of ministers, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today: “The Government has consistently throughout this year been ahead of the curve in terms of proactive measures with regards to coronavirus.”
She said that although 20% of goods come through the short straits, “there is plenty of food in the supermarkets”.
The World Health Organisation’s European chief Hans Kluge said limiting travel to contain the spread of the new variant was “prudent” until there was more information.
News – Tier 4 lockdown across UK only way to stop ‘human disaster’, expert warns