Scientists advising Boris Johnson “never discussed” the 10pm pubs curfew widely criticised as inadequate to curb the pandemic, a leading member of the Sage group says.
The comments from Professor Graham Medley, of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine – who attends the Sage committee – fuelled a belief that the government adopted the measure alone.
“I never discussed it or heard it discussed,” he said of the 10pm shutdown – which was adopted instead of a tougher crackdown on household mingling.
The professor also chairs the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M), which provides the government with detailed advice on response options.
His comment comes after another Sage number, Professor John Edmunds, said the 10pm curfew was “fairly trivial”, adding: “It will have very small impact on the epidemic.”
Meanwhile, London mayor Sadiq Khan is calling for a ban on households mixing for the capital’s 9 million residents – amid a belief that the prime minister will have to go further in the coming days.
From the start of the pandemic in March, ministers insisted they were “following the science” when defending their handling of it, but a gap between experts and politicians appears to be opening up.
“We discuss different measures, but we don’t make those decisions,” Professor Medley said.
“We put forward what we think works, but it’s the government which decides what package of measures to put forward and, in the end, it’s a societal decision.”
Professor Medley also warned there would be 100 coronavirus deaths a day in a few weeks’ time, given the current surge in infections.
“The treatments have improved, the way the virus is transmitting is going to be different, but nonetheless it is a dangerous virus and inevitably it will lead to some deaths,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“In February and March, we were essentially assuming 1 per cent of infections would lead to deaths. Now, even if that is 0.8 per cent – which I think would be a great success in terms of treatment – it still means that we are going to see deaths increase … in three or four weeks we are going to see 100 deaths a day.
“The things that we do now will not stop 100 people dying a day but they will stop that progressing much higher.”
Vaughan Gething, the health minister of Wales – where local lockdowns are being extended to Cardiff, Swansea and Llanelli – said European holidays were helping to spread the virus.
“What we have seen is there has been a further breakdown in social distancing and, as more people have mixed, socialising outside the home and crucially within the home, that household indoor contact is what’s driving transmission events – together with some imported transmission, from European holidays in particular,” he said.