Prof Susan Michael, Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) member and Director of the Centre for Behaviour Change at UCL, told BBC Newsnight that current measures need to be even tougher to curb the spread of the new variant of COVID-19 in the winter. It comes as the UK recorded its highest ever daily death toll and as hospitals warn they are nearly at capacity.
The SAGE member said people are adhering to rules set by the Government to curb the spread of the virus, but the third national lockdown still allows for infection.
Prof Michie said: “Well the evidence shows people are adhering to the rules just as much as they were back in June in the summertime, but what we are seeing is many people out and about, as we heard earlier in the programme.
“But if you think about the much more lax lockdown we have this time it’s not surprising: We have mass gatherings in terms of nurseries and religious events. We have household contact with cleaners, trades people, nannies going in and out of houses. We have a very wide definition of critical worker now, so we’ve heard that up to 30 percent of classes (are attending), so people are still going into schools.
“All of that means busier public transport, and you put all of that together and it means that we’re getting really mixed messages.“
Prof Michie then called for even tighter restrictions, and blasted the Government for confusing messaging.
She added: “On the one hand the Government is saying ‘we’re locking down, stay at home’ but on the other hand they’re saying ‘go out and do all these jobs’.
“And if you think that compared to March, we are now in colder weather, so the virus survives longer plus people spend much more time indoors so they’re at much more risk of aerosol transmission, and we have a variant that is somewhere between 50 and 70 percent more infectious.
“We should be having a stricter lockdown, yet we’ve got a more lax lockdown.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued the third national lockdown restrictions for England on Monday.
Mr Johnson said the lockdown was issued after the new variant, first detected in Kent in September, threaten to overwhelm the NHS as it was more infectious.
MPs overwhelmingly backed the measures when it was put to a vote in the Commons on Wednesday, with 524 voting in favour to 16 MPs against.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock set out the conditions for the lockdown to be lifted yesterday, those being no major new variant of the virus, falling hospitalisations and deaths and a successful vaccination programme.
Yesterday saw the UK record a further 68,053 cases and 1,325 deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test.
The grim toll broke the UK’s record for highest daily deaths, surging past the previous peak of April 21 with 1,224.
Hospitalisations have also surged with 31,624 patients in hospital and 2,929 on ventilators.
Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, declared a “major incident” in the capitol after it was reported one in 30 people in the city have contracted the virus.
Prof Michie and the SAGE group are set to urge the Government to warn Brits who have been vaccinated against complacency.
New research from the advisory group suggested Brits could “let their guard down” after catching the jabs, and called for a fully functional test and trace system.
Prof Michie also said to i News the lack of a proper system was the UK’s “biggest failing”, and added: “Test, trace and isolate will still be absolutely essential even with a vaccine.
“We will still have outbreaks, we are not going to drive this thing down to zero, but we need to get it down to a level where we can deal with it effectively.”