Ministers were “too slow” to announce the first coronavirus lockdown so must “act quickly” if another is needed, a government adviser says.
Professor Peter Horby told Sky News fresh restrictions announced on Tuesday to stem the spread of COVID-19 were “really needed”.
He warned the number of people hospitalised and those who die with the virus will “inevitably” start growing now daily new infection numbers have shot back up to levels not seen since the start of May.
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Prof Horby, who sits on the government’s advice group known as SAGE and chairs the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group, added he was not “scaremongering” but that the UK is still in a “serious situation”.
He told the public “most of the population is still susceptible to it”, following Prime Minister Boris Johnson declaring he had to reimpose some measures because too many people are breaching the rules.
From Thursday in England, all pubs, bars and restaurants will have to close at 10pm and mask use in hospitality businesses will become mandatory, with fines for first-time offenders doubled.
Mr Johnson said the action had to be taken to avoid a second national lockdown. He did not go as far as Scotland and Northern Ireland, where political leaders have banned households mixing indoors.
But public health expert Professor Linda Bauld, from the University of Edinburgh, accused Downing Street of playing a “blame game” after months of mixed-messaging which “erodes trust” with the public.
“The public have been told to eat out to help out, to go back to the office,” she said.
“Another important message they were given is that they should request a test if they have any of the symptoms, and that it was their civic duty to do that.
“And then when loads of us did do that, when the kids went back to school, we were then blamed by the UK government for wanting too many tests.”
The government was praised for “responding promptly” by Professor Dame Anne Johnson, a vice president at the Academy of Medical Sciences.
She said: “We recognise the difficulty in achieving a balance of limiting viral spread while enabling people to continue with their lives, livelihoods and education.
“However, the next few weeks are critical in reversing the increase in the rate of spread and we need to collectively act now to prevent greater future impacts.”
Sky News has contacted the government for comment.
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