The “logical conclusion” of Boris Johnson’s three-tier strategy of local lockdowns will be a “large numbers of deaths”, a leading scientific expert has warned.
Professor John Edmunds, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) which advises the government on the coronavirus pandemic, repeated his call for a national “circuit breaker” in England.
Speaking to the Commons science committee on Wednesday, Edmunds said how people behaved in response to lockdowns was “difficult to predict”.
But he added: “The most difficult thing to predict is government behaviour. Most of the time people’s behaviour is governed by the government.
“That is the biggest determinant of individuals behaviour. At the moment it’s difficult to say what government will do.”
The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine scientist said the prime minister’s current approach was “not being as cautious” as he would like.
“What worries me a little bit is really where the strategy leads to,” he told MPs.
“The targeted strategy, the tiered strategy, if you think it through, where that leads to is a high level of incidents everywhere.”
Under the government’s policy, regions of England are divided into three tiers, medium, high and very high.
South Yorkshire, the Liverpool City Region, Greater Manchester and Lancashire have all been placed in the “very high”, or tier 3, category due to high levels of infections.
But Edmunds warned waiting until infection rates were high before enforcing the toughest measures was a mistake, as the most tier 3 would do is keep the R rate at 1.
“We will keep the incidence at this high level, which is putting hospitals under strain and causing significant numbers of deaths, and we are going to keep it at that high level now for the foreseeable future,” he said.
“A few weeks later the Midlands goes into tier 3 and we keep the Midlands at a high level of incidents. And then London is shortly after.
“By logical extension of this, we all end up at a high level of incidents where hospitals are really under stretch and we have large numbers of deaths.”
He added: “That is the logical conclusion of this strategy we are following. I would not follow that strategy.”
Edmunds said a short “very stringent” national lockdown across England could cut the number of infections in half.
“So instead of holding the incidents at this high level where hospitals are under strain, you hold it at a lower level.
“Or you move to tier 3 everywhere now. So places which haven’t got to a point where hospitals are under strain you keep them at that level now, to stop them getting there.”
By the weekend 7.3 million people, or 13% of England’s population, will be living under tier 3 restrictions which include a ban on households mixing and the closure of pubs and bars which do not serve meals.
Johnson has so far resisted calls, including from Labour, for a two-to-three week national lockdown, although he has not ruled it out.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.