Third lockdown may have to be toughest yet, says professor who designed first

Alessio Perrone
·2-min read
A view of people walking along Southbank lit with Christmas Lights during Tier 3 of the Covid-19 Pandemic Lockdown on 17 December 2020 in London. (Jo Hale/Getty Images)
A view of people walking along Southbank lit with Christmas Lights during Tier 3 of the Covid-19 Pandemic Lockdown on 17 December 2020 in London. (Jo Hale/Getty Images)

The third national lockdown may have to be stricter than the second, Imperial College London epidemiologist Professor Neil Ferguson said.

“The concern I have right now is that ... (in) the East of England, for instance, case numbers were rising during the last lockdown, so there may be a need for additional controls beyond even what were in place then,” he told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme on Friday.

Prof Ferguson sat on the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies until May, and his modelling led the UK government to U-turn on its initial “herd immunity” strategy and to design the first national lockdown in March.

His comments came as the prime minister, Boris Johnson, failed to rule out the prospect of a third national lockdown, signalling that one might be needed after Christmas after the rate of infections increased “very much” in the last few weeks.

“Obviously, we’re hoping very much that we'll be able to avoid anything like that but the reality is that the rates of infection have increased very much in the last few weeks,” Mr Johnson told reporters during a visit to Greater Manchester.

Despite warnings it would fuel a third wave of infections, Mr Johnson and ministers have so far insisted they will not curtail the five-day window of relaxation of the measures, which would allow up to three households to meet indoors over Christmas across the UK.

Both Wales and Northern Ireland have already announced plans to impose a new lockdown after Christmas.

Several areas in the UK, including London, Eastern England, the East Midlands and the South East, are already seeing sharp rises in new coronavirus infections.

In total, 567,300 people are projected to have had coronavirus in the week to the 12 December in England, an increase of 18 per cent on the number the previous week.

Dr Hans Kluge, the World Health Organisation’s regional director for Europe, has pleaded people to stay at home for Christmas.

“There remains a difference between what you are being permitted to do by your authorities and what you should do,” he said. “The safest thing to do right now is to remain at home.”

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