UK needs stricter COVID rules to prevent new “disaster”, warns epidemiologist

LONDON (Reuters) – The British government must introduce stricter coronavirus closure rules to prevent a new wave of deaths due to a new type of disease, a leading epidemiologist and government adviser warned on Tuesday.

Britain reported 41,385 new COVID cases on Monday, the highest number since tests were widely available in mid-2020, and English hospitals say they have more COVID patients than during the first wave of the April pandemic.

“We are entering a very dangerous new phase of the pandemic, and we will need decisive early national action to prevent a catastrophe in January and February,” said Andrew Hayward, professor of infectious epidemiology at University College London. .

More than 71,000 people in Britain died within a 28-day positive test for the disease.

Hayward, who sits on a British government advisory body on respiratory diseases, said the new strain COVID, which infects humans, more easily means that existing lock-in measures in England would probably not be enough to slow the spread of the disease.

On 26 December, the UK government expanded the strictest level of COVID restrictions, including closing non-essential retailers and people mostly unable to meet in person, to cover almost half of England’s population.

Hayward told the BBC that these curbs should be further expanded.

“We are really looking at a situation in which we are almost locked up,” he said.

Schools in England will reopen for many pupils on 4 January. Hayward said it would make sense from a purely epidemiological point of view to keep them closed longer, but problems facing poorer students to learn online mean sidewalks in other parts of public life. preferable.

Authorities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland set their own policies on schools and measures to combat COVID.

Reporting by David Milliken, Editing by Paul Sandle