Scientists refute Boris Johnson’s claims about coronavirus isolation

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking at a media briefing in Downing Street after he had taken part in the governments COBRA...

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking at a media briefing in Downing Street after he had taken part in the governments COBRA meeting. Photograph: Richard Pohle/The Times/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

Despite Boris Johnson claiming the tide can be turned within 12 weeks, experts believe that social isolation measures will need to be place for most of a year to control the spread of coronavirus.

Scientists also advised ministers that, while the severity of measures could alternate during the period, the 'stricter' measures would need to be enforced for at least half of the year.

A report by the scientific pandemic influenza group on modelling states: 'It was agreed that the addition of both general social distancing and school closures to case isolation, household isolation and social distancing of vulnerable groups would be likely to control the epidemic when kept in place for a long period.

'It was agreed that a policy of alternating between periods of more and less strict social distancing measures could plausibly be effective at keeping the number of critical care cases within capacity.

'These would need to be in place for at least most of a year. Under such as policy, at least half of the year would be spent under the stricter social distancing measures.'


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The triggers for controls to be imposed or lifted could be set at a level of UK nations and regions, the advice states, suggesting more stringent measures could be enforced in London, where the disease is at its most rampant.

The advice dated Monday says the measures that would need to stay for 'a long period' would include general social distancing, school closures and household isolation.

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Three days later the PM told the nation: 'I think, looking at it all, that we can turn the tide within the next 12 weeks and I'm absolutely confident that we can send coronavirus packing in this country.'

Separate advice from the Scientific Group on Behaviour and Communications detailed the weight of the pressure on the PM.


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They said that public disorder amid epidemics is 'usually triggered by perceptions about the government response'.

However, they did agree that 'large-scale rioting is unlikely' and that there is a greater chance of acts of altruism predominating, which they said ministers could 'promote and guide'.

One risk to order is from police actions being deemed excessive, with the experts advising that officers should take a role of 'support rather than control'.

To minimise the chances, ministers were told to 'provide clear and transparent reasons for different strategies' with 'clear expectations on how the response will develop'.

A sense of collectivism should be fostered with messaging reinforcing a sense of community and that 'we are all in this together', they advised.

However, the behavioural advisers warned that the household isolation advice and school closures will have greater impacts on poorer families.

'For poorer families, loss of income and increased household bills (heating, electricity, food delivery etc), will occur concurrently with loss of social services provided through schools (free school meals, after school clubs etc),' they said.

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