Robert Jenrick resists SAGE calls for another national lockdown

‘You can’t stop-start a country’: Minister admits Covid-19 is ‘in a bad place’ in ALL of England but insists Government will RESIST calls for a national lockdown despite SAGE prediction of 85,000 second wave deaths and France and Germany ordering shutdowns

  • Robert Jenrick today resisted calls from SAGE experts for second UK lockdown
  • Housing Secretary said Government intends to stick to local lockdown approach
  • Said you ‘can’t have a stop-start country’ but warned all of UK now in ‘bad place’ 
  • Fears of a second lockdown are growing as infections continue to rise in the UK
  • Scientists have warned that up to 85,000 people could die in a second wave 

Robert Jenrick today resisted calls from the Government’s scientific experts for another national lockdown as he said ‘you can’t have a stop-start country’. 

The Housing Secretary said it is the Government’s ‘very firm view’ that a short nationwide ‘circuit breaker’ shutdown is not the right way forward as he insisted ministers intend to stick to their localised tiered approach. 

However, he conceded the ‘virus is in a bad place in all parts of the country’ and admitted many people are now feeling ‘fatigued’ and ‘frustrated’. 

He insisted the nation needs to ‘see the seriousness of the present situation’ and ‘redouble our efforts’ to comply with coronavirus rules in order to slow the spread of infection. 

His comments came after the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) piled fresh pressure on Boris Johnson to impose tougher restrictions after it warned up to 85,000 people could die in a second wave of the disease. 

Leaked SAGE projections suggest that under a ‘reasonable worst case scenario’ daily deaths could remain above 500 for three months or more, potentially lasting into March next year. 

Pressure on the Government’s approach has grown after both Germany and France announced their own new lockdowns.  

Boris Johnson is under growing pressure from Government scientific advisers to impose a second national lockdown but MPs and business chiefs are urging him to resist the calls

French President Emmanuel Macron last night announced a new nationwide lockdown, claiming that 400,000 people will die of coronavirus if the country does nothing to control a second wave that will be ‘more deadly than the first’.

The national measures will take effect from Friday morning until December 1 and are considered to be ‘more flexible’ than the country’s first lockdown, with all public services, schools and essential workplaces to remain open.

But people on the streets will still have to carry documents justifying their reason for leaving home – that will be subject to police checks – and bars and restaurants will close. State-approved reasons for leaving home include buying essential goods, seeking medical attention or taking a daily one-hour allocation of exercise.

Mr Macron called the new restrictions ‘heartbreaking’ but said he ‘could never stand by and see hundreds of thousands of French citizens die.’ 

He told the country: ‘I decided that it was necessary to insist on a lockdown throughout the country from Friday. We’ve already reached 58 per cent capacity in IC units. In numerous places we have seen life saving operations delayed. And 9,000 patients will be in ICU by mid November – that’s our maximum capacity in France.’

The measures will be in place until at least December 1, when they will be reviewed. Mr Macron says that non-essential shops would be allowed to open within the next 15 days if the situation improves. Currently France’s daily infection rates stand above 35,000 – which must fall to 5,000 for this to happen. 

Mr Macron said: ‘The virus is spreading across France at a speed that even the most pessimistic did not predict.

‘As elsewhere in Europe, we are overwhelmed by a second wave that will probably be more difficult and deadly than the first.

‘If we did nothing… within a few months we would have at least 400,000 additional deaths,’ he said. 

France announced 36,437 new infections on Wednesday night, taking the total above 1.2million, while another 244 deaths brought the total to 35,785.   

It came after Angela Merkel plunged neighbouring Germany back into ‘lockdown lite’, ordering all bars and restaurants to close across the country starting on Monday. 

The chancellor said it was necessary ‘to act, and now, to avoid an acute national health emergency’.  

Business chiefs and MPs have pleaded with the UK Government not to follow suit as they warned of the devastating impact it would have on the struggling economy. 

Mr Jenrick told Sky News that the Government is resisting a second national lockdown as he argued local lockdowns remain the ‘best way forward’. 

‘We will continue with our localised but proportionate approach on taking action where the virus is strongest but you can see from those figures that the virus is in a bad place in all parts of the country,’ he said. 

‘The approach of trying to bear down on it where it is most concentrated I think continues to be the best way forward because despite the fact the virus is rising across the country it is very concentrated in some places nonetheless.’

Mr Jenrick said it is the Government’s ‘very firm view’ that a short national ‘circuit-breaker’ lockdown would be the wrong approach as he warned ‘you can’t have a stop-start country’.

He said: ‘We don’t want to create a second national lockdown. We know that has some effect on bearing down on the virus but we also know it’s immensely disruptive in other regards to people’s lives and livelihoods and broader health and wellbeing, so we will do everything we can to avoid that situation.’

Mr Jenrick said the new lockdowns in other European nations will have ‘long-term scarring effects’ on people.

He added: ‘At the moment it is our very firm view that that is not the right approach for the country, it is not a short-term measure, it is likely to be for a number of weeks.

‘If it succeeded it is likely then needed to be repeated regularly – you can’t have a stop-start country where businesses are closing, people are losing their jobs, then they are having to restart again, the harm to people’s mental health and broader wellbeing, I think, would be immense.’ 

However, Mr Jenrick admitted that much of the nation has been left ‘fatigued’ after months of having to live under Covid-19 restrictions. 

Asked if there was a problem with adherence to the measures, he told BBC Breakfast: ‘In large parts of the country, people have been in some form of restriction now since March.

‘There are places, particularly in the Midlands and the North, that have been in something akin to what we describe as Tier Two for a very long time.

‘And people are feeling fatigued, they are feeling tired and sometimes frustrated by those restrictions.

‘So I do think that we have to all see the seriousness of the present situation and we all do need to redouble our efforts to try to abide by the guidelines.’

His intervention came as council leaders said they have been told by ministers that there was ‘no prospect’ of a national lockdown being imposed.

Asked if compliance would be easier for those in West Yorkshire in a national lockdown rather than local restrictions, Susan Hinchcliffe, leader of Bradford Council, told the BBC: ‘I’ve asked that question and I’ve been told that there is no prospect of a national lockdown. 

London R rate ‘is the worst in England’ and could be as high as 3

Coronavirus is spreading fastest in London, according to a new study which claims the R rate in the capital is almost as high as three and infections are doubling every three days, compared to 1.6 and nine days across England.

Research by Imperial College London, which today estimated a staggering 100,000 people are catching Covid-19 every day, found the city has a ‘scary’ rate of spread.

The paper predicted that the R rate – the average number of people each carrier infects – is higher than two in London, the South East, East and South West, which are mostly not subject to any local lockdowns.

And of those places London has the highest prevalence of the virus at 0.89 per cent, suggesting more than 80,000 of its nine million people are infected at any given moment.

It suggested the R in London is 2.86, meaning those 80,000 people carrying the virus at the time of the study could be expected to infect another 229,000. The possible range of the R is between 1.47 and 4.87, they said.

And cases are doubling every three days in the city, compared to every nine days nationwide. The city is currently in a Tier Two local lockdown.

‘Obviously it’s a tiered approach that the Government are promoting.’

On a national lockdown, the councillor added: ‘Obviously that was the thing that works, that’s the only thing that we’ve seen that has worked, and the whole country was in it together and doing things together.

‘There is something about people following rules and wanting to see the fairness of it all.’

Scientists increased pressure for a national lockdown last night amid suggestions that up to 85,000 could die in a second wave of coronavirus.

The new ‘worst case’ scenario came in a leaked SAGE committee paper as Government-commissioned research revealed nearly one million people in England are likely to currently be infected with coronavirus. 

The Imperial College London research said there were an estimated 96,000 new infections a day, cases were doubling every nine days and the national R rate was up to 1.6.

The official study warned the country was at a ‘critical stage’ in the second wave and urgent action was needed to get the R number below one. 

The leaked SAGE document, first reported on by The Spectator, outlines a situation where deaths could remain above 500 a day for at least three months after Christmas, peaking at 800 a day. 

A death toll of 85,000 would be almost double the current figure of 45,365. 

It emerged yesterday that ministers were given an analysis by SAGE suggesting the second wave could be deadlier than the first, with many in the group of scientists believing the Government needs to take drastic action now.

But business leaders, campaigners and MPs have pleaded with Mr Johnson to resist a second national lockdown. 

The latest official study, released last night, was conducted by Imperial College London researchers and based on random swab testing of 86,000 across England between October 16 and 25

Rates of the disease also increased across all age groups, with the greatest rise in those aged 55-64 at 1.20 per cent, up three-fold from 0.37 per cent in a week. In those aged over 65, prevalence was 0.81 per cent, having doubled from 0.35 per cent. Rates remained highest in 18 to 24-year olds at 2.25 per cent

Imperial researchers sent swabs to 85,971 volunteers in England between October 16 and October 25. In total, 863 were positive (1.28 per cent) – more than double the 0.6 per cent the week before. Pictured: How cases have surged since summer, according to findings from all six phases of the study

Official study shows nearly 100,000 people in England are catching Covid-19 every day

Nearly 100,000 Britons are getting infected with coronavirus every day, according to the results of a Government-led surveillance study which suggests the UK is hurtling towards a second peak that could rival the first.

The REACT-1 project — which has been swabbing tens of thousands of people every week — estimated there were around 96,000 people getting infected every day in England by October 25.

Imperial College London experts behind the research warned cases were just weeks away from surpassing levels seen during the darkest days of the pandemic in March and April. Previous projections have estimated there were slightly more than 100,000 daily cases in spring, which led to over 40,000 deaths in the first wave. 

The study warned infections are doubling every nine days, suggesting there could be 200,000 daily cases by the first week of November. 

Imperial researchers said it was possible that the recent wet and dreary weather had played a role in the surge in infections, by driving people indoors where the virus finds it easier to spread. But they warned it was more likely a small dip in adherence to social distancing rules across the board had opened the door for the highly infectious disease to spread more rapidly.

Imperial’s best guess is that 1.3 per cent of everyone living in England were carrying the disease by October 25, the equivalent of one in 75, or 730,000 people. Covid-19 prevalence was highest in Yorkshire and The Humber (2.7 per cent) and the North West (2.3 per cent). 

Overall, the R rate was around 1.6 across England in the most recent week, compared to 1.16 in the previous round. Experts have repeatedly warned it is critical the reproduction rate stays below the level of one to prevent cases from spiralling. 

They warned that it would wreak economic carnage and devastate thousands of businesses.

Julian Metcalfe, the founder of Pret and Itsu, said another lockdown would be ‘impossible’, adding: ‘Society will not recover if we do it again to save a few thousand lives of very old or vulnerable people. 

‘The young people of this country will be paying for this for the next 20 to 30 years. It’s terrible what’s happening. Just because France does this with its socialist government, doesn’t mean we have to.’

Josh Hardie, deputy director-general of the CBI, said that while public health came first, there could be ‘no hiding from the potentially devastating impact on firms and individuals if Tier Three is rolled out nationally’.

Hotelier Sir Rocco Forte added: ‘A circuit breaker would be a complete disaster. The industry is already at death’s door. It would bankrupt industry and bankrupt the Government.’

John O’Reilly, chief executive of Rank Group, which owns 77 Mecca bingo halls and 51 Grosvenor casinos, said: ‘For hospitality businesses like ours, this is death by a thousand cuts. 

‘The long lockdown, local restrictions, the 10pm curfew and now renewed lockdowns through Tier Three are causing enormous economic damage to businesses.’ 

The Mail has been told that ministers are looking at the possibility of tightening Tier Three restrictions in many areas, which could include ordering the closure of restaurants.

More than a million people living in Nottinghamshire are to be plunged into the toughest Tier Three rules from tomorrow, with tattoo parlours, tanning and nail salons, piercing services, museums and galleries all ordered to close.

Some 55 Tory MPs in the newly formed Northern Research Group this week wrote to the PM to demand that he draws up an exit plan for how areas can get rid of restrictions. 

A senior figure in the group last night said its members would ‘lose our s**t’ if ministers gave in to demands to close more businesses such as restaurants.

Downing Street last night insisted the Prime Minister was sticking to his strategy of controlling the virus through local lockdowns. 

A spokesman said: ‘As a responsible government, we continue to prepare for a wide range of scenarios, including the reasonable worst-case scenario.’

The decision by Mr Macron to last night announce a new national lockdown in France will pile the pressure on Number 10. 

The French President claimed that 400,000 people will die of coronavirus if the country did nothing to control a second wave of infections that will be ‘more deadly than the first’.

The national measures will take effect from Friday morning until December 1 and are considered to be ‘more flexible’ than the country’s first lockdown, with all public services, schools and essential workplaces to remain open.

But people on the streets will still have to carry documents justifying their reason for leaving home – that will be subject to police checks – and bars and restaurants will close. 

State-approved reasons for leaving home include buying essential goods, seeking medical attention or taking a daily one-hour allocation of exercise.

Meanwhile, in Germany a new four-week ‘lockdown lite’ will start on November 2.

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