Thursday, 27 Jan 2022

Expert begs for circuit breaker lockdown as after Christmas will be ‘too late’

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An expert has called for a circuit breaker lockdown before Christmas to stop the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

Stephen Reicher, Professor of Social Psychology at the University of St Andrews and member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), told Times Radio that the Plan B measures alone would not be enough to stop the rapid spread of cases.

It comes after reports that government officials have been establishing plans for a two-week circuit breaker lockdown after the festive season.

Professor Reicher said: “The only way really, or at least the most effective way, we can have an immediate effect is to decrease the number of contacts we have.

“In many ways, the most effective way of diminishing contact is to have a circuit-breaker.

“Now, you could have it after Christmas, the problem is after Christmas it’s probably too late, it’s probably by then we will have had a huge surge of infections with all the impact upon society.

“When people say ‘look, we don’t want to close down’, of course, we don’t want to close down. But the problem is at the moment, things are closing down anyway, because of the spread of infection.

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“So I think we need to act now.”

The Financial Times reported that the Prime Minister was presented with several options on Friday (December 17) under "Plan C", ranging from "mild guidance" to "nudge people, right through to lockdown".

Source claimed that Boris Johnson still wished to go down the guidance route – but that he had to be realistic about the threat of the Omicron variant.

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Leaked minutes from a Sage meeting said scientists had advised ministers that tougher measures need to be introduced "very soon".

The BBC reported that advisers had recommended introducing restrictions seen in the first two steps of the easing of lockdown restrictions in the spring.

This included a ban on hospitality and mixing indoors. Scientists reportedly warned against delaying restrictions until 2022.

According to The Times, draft regulations are being prepared which would ban meeting other people indoors except for work purposes.

They would also limit pubs and restaurants to outdoor service only, for a fortnight after Christmas.

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“When people say ‘look, we don’t want to close down’, of course, we don’t want to close down. But the problem is at the moment, things are closing down anyway, because of the spread of infection.

“So I think we need to act now.”

Lord Victor Adebowale, chairman of the NHS Confederation, voiced support for a circuit-breaker, warning that a cautionary approach should be taken.

He told Times Radio: “I would support the circuit-breaker. My members would support the circuit-breaker.

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“We’ve been calling for Plan B for some time now and we’re glad that it was voted through. I think the Government has to be prepared to recall Parliament if further interventions are needed.”

He added: “The fact of the matter is we should be taking the precautionary principle. We should be protecting our NHS and our public services. We have no economy without health.”

A Government spokesperson said: “The Government will continue to look closely at all the emerging data and we’ll keep our measures under review as we learn more about this variant.”

  • Coronavirus
  • Boris Johnson
  • BBC
  • NHS
  • Pubs
  • Christmas
  • Science
  • Omicron

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