Boris Johnson criticised for ignoring circuit break calls in September - 'we've had 18,000 dead since then'

Will Taylor
·News Reporter
·3-min read
Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street to attend Prime Minister's Questions at the Houses of Parliament, London.
Boris Johnson has been criticised for not implementing a "circuit breaker" lockdown in September. (PA)

Boris Johnson has been criticised for deciding against imposing a “circuit break” coronavirus lockdown in September.

Anthony Costello, an ex-World Health Organization (WHO) director and frequent critic of the government, said 18,000 people had died in the outbreak since then and warned “thousands more will die” in the next two months.

The Independent SAGE member attacked the government’s COVID-19 tracing and isolating approach as ineffective and said the outbreak’s toll had been a “national disgrace”.

Although Johnson chose against a “circuit break” in September, he did implement a lockdown for England throughout most of November, which a major study said brought down cases by 30%.

The Department of Health was contacted for response to Costello on Friday morning.

Some experts had spoken about imposing a short lockdown to bring cases back down in September.

Professor John Edmunds, who sits on the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), told LBC that month: “My idea, if I was in Boris Johnson's shoes, I would do a circuit-breaker right now, which is a two-week mini-lockdown.”

However, a top coronavirus investigator, Professor Tim Spector, has since criticised short lockdowns as a “disaster to be avoided” after Wales’s cases surged following a 17-day “sharp and deep” shutdown.

That lasted from 23 October to 9 November – a few weeks after Prof Edmunds called for a circuit breaker.

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The UK's daily confirmed cases have fallen recently. (PA)
The UK's daily confirmed cases have fallen recently. (PA)

The UK is not alone in struggling with a second wave. Most parts of Europe suffered from a resurgence, with the WHO saying in mid-November that one person was dying from COVID-19 every 17 seconds in the continent.

A third of countries were seeing rates of more than 700 cases per 100,000 people over 14 days at that time, the WHO said.

France announced a new national lockdown in October while Germany has experienced record daily deaths, having been praised for its handling of the first wave in spring, and entered a partial shutdown.

With the UK’s death toll having passed 60,000, attention is on the impact Christmas will have.

People wearing face masks stroll at Trocadero plaza near the Eiffel Tower, in Paris, Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020. France registered more than 7,000 new virus infections in a single day Friday, up from several hundred a day in May and June, in part thanks to ramped-up testing. Masks are now required everywhere in public in Paris as authorities warn that infections are growing exponentially. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)
The UK is not alone in struggling with a second wave of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)

All four nations of the UK have agreed to allow three households to form temporary bubbles between 23 and 27 December.

However, there are fears that the slight easing of restrictions and the impact of more people mixing could lead to more cases.

Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter told the BBC “there is bound to be some effect”.

“Now, I wouldn’t want to say what the size of that effect is going to be because it depends crucially on people’s behaviour,” he added.

“And, how much they obey the rules and are sensible.”

In the UK, there have been 63,000 deaths within 28 days of a patient having a positive test for COVID-19 and 1,700,000 confirmed cases since the outbreak began.

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