Coronavirus: Sage publishes minutes of meetings after warnings lockdown was being eased too soon

Jimmy Nsubuga
BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - MAY 29: People enjoy the hot weather in the town park on May 29, 2020 in Bournemouth, United Kingdom. The British government continues to ease the coronavirus lockdown by announcing schools will open to reception year pupils plus years one and six from June 1st. Open-air markets and car showrooms can also open from the same date.  (Photo by Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images)
People enjoy the hot weather in the town park in Bournemouth (Picture: Getty)

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has published evidence and minutes from its first meetings relating to the UK’s coronavirus response as part of a pledge for transparency.

The group, which is responsible for providing scientific briefings to the government on the pandemic, published 51 documents, including details from meetings from late January until May 7.

The minutes for more recent summits were not published as they “still contain sensitive information, with policy advice still under live consideration,” the government said.

The release came as the government was warned it may be easing lockdown restrictions too soon.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a gradual easing of the lockdown in England, with friends and families able to meet in parks and gardens in socially distanced groups of six from Monday.

Schools will also reopen to allow students in nurseries, early-years settings, reception, Year 1 and Year 6 to return to class.

More shops will also be allowed to trade again, with outdoor retail and car showrooms able to resume operations.

But asked if he agreed it was too soon to ease more of the lockdown, Sage’s Professor Peter Horby told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Actually, I do.

“You know, we have still got 8,000 cases a day.

“We have been very successful in bringing it down, decreasing the numbers because of the social distancing.”

He said it was vital “we don’t lose control again”.

Government chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance said publication of the Sage documents on Friday would help build collective understanding around the science of COVID-19.

He said: “Openness and transparency around this disease is a social imperative, which is why it’s important we don’t wait to publish minutes and evidence.”

He added: “The collective evidence we have published today has played a considerable role in shaping our recommendations on when, how and why the government have made the interventions it has so far.”

A nine year old school girl studies her homework folder following the final day of school following the Government announcement that all schools in England will close on Friday due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Some children will return to school on Monday (Picture: PA)

The government has said it hopes that a “test and trace” regime, where contacts of known cases are asked to self-isolate, will help society more broadly return to normality.

But evidence published by Sage from SPI-B, a subgroup which looks at behaviour, said that only around 50% of people are reporting self-isolating for at least seven days when they have symptoms of COVID-19.

The paper said that financial recompense for workdays missed due to self-isolating and emphasis on the social value of doing so would help a test and trace system work better.

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