Epidemic will keep growing as measures are not enough says SAGE expert

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A member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies panel which is advising the Government on coronavirus response says the new measures will not be enough to stop the spread of the disease.

Professor John Edmunds, a member of the Government’s Sage committee, said action had not been taken quickly enough back in March and that “mistake” is about to be repeated.

He said the epidemic will continue to spread, and he said there is little chance we will have it under control by Christmas.

Speaking in a personal capacity to BBC Radio Four’s Today programme, he said: “I suspect we will see very stringent measures coming in place throughout the UK at some point, but it will be too late again.

“We will have let the epidemic double and double and double again until we do take those measures.

“And then we’ll have the worst of both worlds, because then to slow the epidemic and bring it back down again, all the way down to somewhere close to where it is now or where it was in the summer will mean putting the brakes on the epidemic for a very long time, very hard – which is what we had to do in March because we didn’t react quick enough in March, and so I think that we haven’t learned from our mistake back then and we’re unfortunately about to repeat it.”

Professor Edmunds, dean of the Faculty of Epidemiology and Population Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said it was welcome that the Government had “done something” but that the curfew on bars and restaurants was likely to have a “trivial” effect.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think working from home if you can is certainly a good idea. I think that the measures in terms of closing bars an hour early and restaurants at 10 – I mean, nobody goes to a restaurant after 10 anyway. I think that’s fairly trivial in terms of it’ll have a small impact on the epidemic.

“Overall I don’t think that the measures have gone anywhere near far enough. In fact I don’t even think the measures in Scotland have gone far enough.”

Professor Edmunds said the March lockdown had been a “combination of many, many, many different measures”.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Each one of those individual measures, if you break it up, is going to have quite a small effect, actually, on the overall reproduction number, which is probably somewhere round about 2 at the moment.

“And so in order to stop the epidemic from growing any further, we have to put a large range of measures in place.”

Asked if there was a realistic chance the R could be brought under 1 by Christmas, he said: “I suspect not. There’s a chance, of course there’s a chance.”

Of the stricter measures in Scotland and Northern Ireland where households are banned from mixing indoors, he said: “I suspect that they will not be enough.”

He added: “I think we will continue to see an increase of the epidemic.”

He said stringent measures need to be put in place “as fast as possible”.

Foireign Secretary Dominic Raab warned that a “small minority” could “blow it for everyone else” if they do not obey the new coronavirus restrictions.

The Foreign Secretary was asked if scientific advice suggested the new measures would be sufficient, during an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

He said: “The scientific advice that we’ve had presented by the chief scientific adviser and the chief medical officer is that these measures can help us bear down again on the uptick we’ve seen in the virus if everyone complies with it.

“Overwhelmingly the public… have been fantastic in rallying behind the guidance and we’ve seen compliance at very high levels.

“But the risk is, of course, that that frays at the edges, that a small minority, if I can put it this way, blow it for everyone else, and that’s why the measures that we’ve introduced are targeted along with increased fines and making sure we’ve got consistent enforcement and compliance.”



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