Boris Johnson has been urged to consider a “circuit breaker” national lockdown sooner rather than later over fears that the current measures to stop coronavirus are not working.
Professor Calum Semple, a member of the government’s scientific advisory panel who specialises in disease outbreaks, recommended a “circuit breaker” be considered on a national basis in a bid to slow the virus.
Speaking in a personal capacity, Prof Semple – a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) – told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that “perhaps a circuit breaker a couple of weeks ago would have been a really good idea”.
He added: “It’s always easier to reduce an outbreak at the earlier stage than to let it run and then try to reduce it at a later stage.
“So, yes, circuit breakers are certainly something we should be thinking about on a national basis.”
According to the government’s coronavirus dashboard, there were 2,783 patients with Covid-19 in hospitals in England and 349 patients on ventilators as of Tuesday.
The number of those admitted to English hospitals on Sunday – the most recent day for which the figures are available – was 478, almost double the figure seven days previously.
The figures for hospital admissions and patients on ventilators in England are the highest since June.
The rise in cases has led to warnings from leaders of northern cities that the local lockdown restrictions are confusing and even “counter-productive”, as they called for new powers to tackle the resurgence.
The leaders of Leeds, Manchester and Newcastle City Councils – Judith Blake, Sir Richard Leese and Nick Forbes – joined Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson in writing to health secretary Matt Hancock to say they are “extremely concerned” about the rise in cases.
“The existing restrictions are not working, confusing for the public and some, like the 10pm rule, are counter-productive,” the Labour politicians wrote.
They called for additional powers to punish those who break rules, for new restrictions to be developed by police, council and public health experts, and for a locally-controlled Test and Trace system.
“We want to be clear, however, that we do not support further economic lockdowns,” the leaders added.