January lockdown unlikely to be ‘needed’ says expert despite relaxation over Christmas
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Epidemiologist Professor Neil Ferguson has said a lockdown in January will not happen if Britons rigorously follow the tier system. He explained the second lockdown in November was needed due to its delay. Speaking to BBC Newsnight, Mr Ferguson said: “I think we’ll be at rather similar levels of infection, hopefully.
“It’s the best we can hope for then we will be in about a week or ten days’ time.
“I think the measures which are being introduced in terms of the tier system, whilst tier three is likely to pull down infection levels in the higher prevalence areas, rather than actually cause them to go down.
“I think overall it is this balance, we don’t want to see exponential growth of the virus again and hospitals filling up more than there are at the moment, neither do we want a level of the economic impact of the control measures, which would be inevitable if we want to drive infection levels down.
“Keeping things about flat until we start rolling out vaccine at scale is the best we can hope for.”
BBC Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis asked: “You don’t think we will go into lockdown again in January as a result fo the Christmas relaxation?”
Professor Ferguson said: “I think it very much depends of how rigorously we actually use the tier system to respond to fluctuations in case numbers.
“The problem really in October was we delayed responding to obviously exponentially increasing cases and that means that you have to overreact in some sense when you finally do respond.
“As long as we’re timely in responding to any upsurges of cases we see in individual areas, then no, I don’t think we’ll need to into lockdown again.”
It comes as mass community testing may not be possible “all at once” for areas of England with the toughest coronavirus restrictions, the head of operations for the programme has admitted.
General Sir Gordon Messenger said he did not yet know how many of the 23 million people going into Tier 3 will be able to access the regime, as “planning is still very much underway”.
But he told a Downing Street press conference that capabilities will “sequence over time”, adding this will be into “January and beyond”.
It comes after Boris Johnson signalled last week that mass community testing was the way out of Tier 3 restrictions, referring to the “success story” of Liverpool, where the scheme was piloted.
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In response to a question from the PA news agency on how many people in the toughest tier will be able to access mass community testing, Sir Gordon said he did not yet know how many it will reach.
“And as I said, the nature of this will vary from region to region and from area to area,” he said on Monday evening.
“We are alive to the possibility that we will not be able to do this all at once, but we assess that local authorities are at varying levels of preparedness and readiness to do this.
“And therefore I can see this as an offer that will sequence over time and into January and beyond.
“The priority that we accord, the levels of support we give, will be based on the infection rate, how long those areas have been under harsh restrictions, how mature their plans are, how ready they are to deliver them.”
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