Call for third national lockdown as Tier 4 fails to contain new Covid strain
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
Scientific leaders have called for a third national lockdown as coronavirus infections, accelerated by the new variant, begin to surpass the first peak.
Independent SAGE has advised that Tier 4 restrictions will not be enough to contain the new strain of Covid-19, which is not thought to cause more severe disease but has greater infectiousness.
The group said: "Modellers from the SAGE modelling subgroup estimate that even under national Tier 4, another 100,000 people could die before the end of June 2021. In that scenario, hundreds of thousands of others would go on to suffer long term effects from Covid-19 and the NHS would be brought to its knees. The government needs to act now to prevent this catastrophe."
Suffolk and Essex are currently under the highest level of restrictions, forcing the closure of hospitality and gyms, but this will not be enough to stop "tens of thousands more deaths", according to the scientists.
The intensive care units in Ipswich and Colchester hospitals are currently full, with Colchester treating 110 Covid-19 patients and Ipswich 150.
There are now more people in hospitals in England — 20,426 as at Monday, December 28 — with Covid-19 than at any point during the pandemic.
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Independent SAGE expects the number of people to die after testing positive for the virus will exceed the figures from the first wave at some point in January.
To combat the 'new pandemic' the country finds itself in, the group is advising a one-month closure of all schools, an immediate national lockdown, larger vaccination effort and an effective Covid control strategy at the English borders.
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Sir David King, chair of Independent SAGE and former chief scientific adviser to the UK government, said: "The UK is now at the most precarious stage of the pandemic and urgent action is needed.
"The reasons for the extreme urgency and the five action points that must now be carried out by our decision makers are set out in our press briefing.
"There is every reason to treat this as the critical time for action now. Any delay will probably cause tens of thousands more deaths."
Christina Pagel, Professor of Operational Research at University College London, said things are as bad as they have ever been.
She added: "The frightening thing is that they are going to continue to get worse. Action is needed now to avoid the collapse of the NHS in a few weeks. It is that serious."
In Suffolk, cases are rising fastest in Babergh with a weekly infection rate of 331.4 cases per 100,000 people. The rate for England is 366.2.
In north Essex, Braintree currently has an infection rate of 776.5 in contrast with areas such as Colchester and Tendring which have rates in the mid 300s.