A second lockdown is unnecessary because 91 per cent of people in England live in neighbourhoods that have not seen a single case of coronavirus in a month, an academic has argued.
Government scientists have warned that another national shutdown could be needed if cases rise in a similar way to Spain and France. Britain’s second largest city, Birmingham, is also facing local restrictions, amid a recent spike in cases.
But Prof John Clancy, of Birmingham City University, said putting the city into lockdown would be "lunacy" and warned current fears of a second wave were based on "dodgy data".
“[Some] 91 per cent of England (that’s 51million people) live in neighbourhoods where there hasn’t been a recorded Covid-19 case in the last 4 weeks,” wrote Prof Clancy in a recent blog.
“According to the Government’s own testing figures, 87 of Birmingham’s 132 neighbourhoods did not record a single tested positive case of Covid-19 in the last week, so 716,000 Brummies live in a neighbourhood where there were no positive tests in the last week.
“Fifty-three of the neighbourhoods (418,000 people) have not recorded a single case in the last 4 weeks. Forty-six neighbourhoods (371,000 people) have not recorded a single case in the last 8 weeks.”
Prof Clancy, who is also the former leader of Birmingham city council, said the current testing numbers were "low and unreliable" and that testing in Britain was now in "total chaos".
“They are all over the place. And policy responses based on it will be chaos too,” he warned.
“If the so-called spikes in places like Birmingham lead to reported Covid-19 hospital admissions or reported Covid-19 deaths, then there is cause for alarm.
“But the reality is that increased and more widespread testing is leading, oddly enough, to finding more cases. This has not broadly led to increases in Covid-19 related deaths and hospital admissions in other so-called hotspots.”
Last week Birmingham was placed on the national watch list by Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, and given ‘enhanced support’ to help prevent a lockdown. But there has been just one death recorded in the city in the past week and on Sunday, just six deaths were recorded for the whole of Britain.
There are currently 834 patients in hospital with coronavirus, and 72 on ventilators.
Birmingham police said it had issued dozens of reminders of the need for social distancing after being called to more than 70 street and house parties and other unlicensed gatherings overnight.
The force tweeted that they had dispersed dozens of parties, including one at Northfield on the outskirts of Birmingham which included two marquees and a DJ.
“Everyone packed up and went home after we arrived,” Birmingham Police tweeted. “Please understand we are still in a pandemic.”
In a separate tweet, the force said officers had ‘responded to over 70 street and house parties and other unlicensed events’ on Saturday night.
The National Police Chiefs' Council has warned that forces in England and Wales will continue to increase patrols heading into the bank holiday weekend. Areas of concern, such as Leicester and Greater Manchester, have seen deployments larger than on New Year's Eve, it said.
But Prof Clancy said: “So-called ‘spikes’ are occurring here, there, and everywhere up and down the country because new testing regimes are causing them either with false positives, picking up residual infections or (usually more likely) suddenly increased testing in specific areas.
“‘Just in case’ lockdowns are simply not an acceptable response to dodgy data. And lockdowns cause deaths.”