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UK faces 'catastrophe' in coming weeks unless Boris Johnson declares tougher COVID rules

Will Taylor
·News Reporter
·2-min read
Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on Covid-19.
Boris Johnson is "likely" to need tougher restrictions to fight COVID-19. (PA)

A “near lockdown” or tighter restrictions than Tier 4 will likely be needed to stop a coronavirus “catastrophe” early next year, an expert has said.

Professor Andrew Hayward, who is part of the government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) believes the way COVID-19 is spreading means previous restrictions will no longer work.

The rise in cases is being driven by the newly-identified fast-spreading variant of coronavirus, he said.

Prof Hayward told Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think we are entering a very dangerous new phase of the pandemic and we’re going to need decisive, early, national action to prevent a catastrophe in January and February.

“A 50% increase in transmissibility means that the previous levels of restrictions that worked before won’t work now, and so Tier 4 restrictions are likely to be necessary or even higher than that.

Read more: Expert hails 'game changer' Oxford vaccine

“I think we’re really looking at a situation where we’re moving into near lockdown, but we’ve got to learn the lessons from the first lockdown.”

The variant, which accounted for 60% of London’s coronavirus cases by December, could be up to 70% more transmissible.

The spike in COVID-19 cases has been “very largely driven” by it, Prof Hayward said.

Daily infections have been above 30,000 for much of the Christmas period, reaching 41,000 on Monday.

He added that if schools are to continue after the Christmas break, they could resume “a little bit later” and other restrictions will need to be put in place.

Read more

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The University College London professor of infectious disease epidemiology told Today: “We’ve had control measures that were previously controlling the old variant are not enough for this variant.”

A stay-at-home message, combined with incentives to isolate, will be required as vaccines are rolled out, he said.

Watch: What is long COVID?