Professor warns Brits face second Covid lockdown if trickle turns to 'cascade'

Brits face a new ‘hard’ coronavirus lockdown if they don’t obey the new rule of six, a top professor has warned.

Prof Peter Openshaw, who advises government body SAGE, said he fears the “trickle” of cases will turn to a “cascade”.

The Imperial College scientist added “we must act fast” to stop the virus exploding – and warned a delay of even a “few days” could be “dangerous”.

It comes as social gatherings of more than six people including babies and toddlers are made illegal in England from tomorrow – with offenders facing £100 fines.

Two days ago Imperial published a study claiming coronavirus cases are doubling every week in England and the R number could already be at 1.7.

That would mean each person who gets infected is giving the virus to 1.7 other people – spreading it exponentially.

Shoppers in Birmingham, one area where local restrictions have already come in

Prof Openshaw told Sky News the rise in coronavirus infections among young people will “inevitably” cause more deaths when it spreads to the elderly.

He added: “The rule of six… does seem somewhat irrational in some of the detail, and I can appreciate that.

“It is going to cause pain and suffering for us to all go back to some degree of lockdown.

“But if we don’t do this now we are going to be right back in hard lockdown in short order.”

Prof Openshaw warned coronavirus was like a dam that’s about to burst

Government minister Robert Buckland today insisted a second full national lockdown was still a “nuclear option”.

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Boris Johnson is desperate to stick to local restrictions area by area, instead of a blanket measures across England.

But with households already banned from mingling in the whole of Birmingham and Manchester, as well as other large areas, No10 refused to rule out national action.

A source confirmed possible national plans in the “arsenal” include ordering all pubs and restaurants to close after 10pm or 11pm, as they have in Bolton.

Ministers are also looking at the option of advising up to 4.5million vulnerable or ill people to ‘shield’ – either staying at home entirely, or taking extra care.

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said keeping schools, colleges and the economy open will be prioritised over family gatherings if new measures have to be brought in.

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said keeping schools, colleges and the economy open will be prioritised

“While social occasions are important… they must take second place to those priorities,” he said.

Official figures put R – the number of people infected by each Covid-19 carrier – at 1.0-1.2 overall in the UK.

But these are thought to be some weeks out of date.

And a leaked Department of Health memo claims the virus is now spreading again in care homes.

According to The Sunday Times, Health Secretary Matt Hancock took an emergency update on Wednesday saying that outbreaks had been detected in 43 care homes.

Asked if Britain was on the “edge of losing control” Prof Openshaw, Professor of Experimental Medicine at Imperial College London, told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “Yes, I think that is right.

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“It’s a bit like water seeping through a dam. It starts as a trickle and if you don’t do something about it, it can turn into a real cascade.”

He added: “We must act fast because it is so much harder to get this sort of thing under control if you delay even a few days.

“This is potentially going to be quite dangerous now at this particular moment.

“It is back in care homes as well, so we know these are very vulnerable pockets, it’s not just in the younger people, it’s starting to appear in even more vulnerable and inevitably it’s going to be followed by hospitalisations and deaths.

“This isn’t a game – we shouldn’t be out trying to party as hard as we can in the run up to Monday’s lockdown.

“We should all be really thinking about what we can do now to slow down the spread.”



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