Scientists from the Sage committee yesterday presented No 10 with bleak figures showing that Covid is spreading ‘significantly’ faster than even their original ‘worst-case scenario’ prediction.
Last night a Cabinet source told the Mail that the dramatic move will be announced next week. It was not clear exactly what form the new lockdown would take, or what would be ordered to close or how long it would last.
The Government now faces a critical weekend to determine the shape of the measures before an announcement.
The Prime Minister and Chancellor Rishi Sunak are said to have agonised over the decision because of fears it would leave the economy in tatters.
But the scientists – backed by Health Secretary Matt Hancock and senior minister Michael Gove – told them the virus was on track to kill 85,000 this winter, and that it was too late for a so-called ‘circuit break’.
They called for a longer national lockdown – similar to the month-long shutdown in France – saying it was the only way to stop hospitals from running out of beds.
In a clear signal of the deep Government split on the issue, a Cabinet source said those opposed to a lockdown were ‘not prepared to surrender’.
Boris Johnson is expected to announce a national lockdown next week after his scientific advisers told him it was the only way to save Christmas
The Mail has been told that Mr Johnson’s No 10 team is also split, with an influential adviser understood to have warned him this week that a national lockdown was ‘inevitable’ – and delaying it could backfire on him. It came as:
- Mr Johnson is to meet the leaders of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to thrash out a ‘common approach to Christmas’;
Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds praise ‘utterly brilliant’ NHS staff for saving his life and the maternity team that delivered son Wilfred
In their first joint television appearance, a recording for the Pride of Britain awards, they will thank frontline workers for their ‘courage and dedication’ during the pandemic in a broadcast on Sunday.
The couple nominated nurses Jenny McGee and Luis Pitarma, two nurses who cared for Mr Johnson at St Thomas’ Hospital in April, and the maternity team who delivered Wilfred later the same month.
- The number of virus patients in hospital has doubled in the past fortnight, with 10,708 patients being treated by the NHS.
- The ONS said 50,000 people were becoming infected with coronavirus each day, with a further 274 fatalities reported yesterday;
- A poll by anti-lockdown group Recovery found that more than 70 per cent of people were more worried about the effect of lockdown than they were of catching Covid.
Details of the lockdown row emerged after the Mail disclosed how the Prime Minister has been warned by scientists – led by Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance – that all hospitals in England will be full by December 17 unless he took more action.
Andy Street, the Conservative West Midlands mayor, said it was clear more action was needed. He added: ‘Whether it be a national four-week lockdown, I do not know, but what I do know is that the message is very clear: we have to take further action to turn this tide.’
Professor Dominic Harrison, director of public health at Blackburn with Darwen council, called for a circuit-breaker because Tier Three households were ‘not complying completely’ with the guidance.
But Jon Dobinson, of Recovery, said: ‘The concept of a four-week lockdown to save Christmas is yet more cruel and inhumane policy which will further fuel the growing mental health crisis – all justified by holding out a false hope.
‘People are dying in their thousands from lockdown and restrictions: it’s time to focus on that.’
Earlier, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the Government was ‘striving to avoid’ a national lockdown.
He added: ‘We’re always ready for further measures that we can take. But I think the most important thing about further measures is that we continue on the track we’re on of targeting the virus.’
There were also reports of more Tory infighting, with claims by older MPs that the lockdown revolt by Conservative MPs in northern ‘Red Wall’ seats was led by ‘selfish young MPs who have nothing to fear personally’ from Covid because of their age.
In their first joint television appearance on Sunday, Boris Johnson and his fiancée Carrie Symonds will praise NHS medics for saving the Prime Minister’s life as he fought coronavirus and for delivering their son
Percentage change in coronavirus cases across England in the week to October 25: The five local authorities where the infection rate grew the most are: Kingston upon Hull City, 92.81 per cent; Derby, 91.84 per cent; North Somerset, 82.99 per cent; Medway, 77.17 per cent; and Bath and North East Somerset 69.72 per cent
Above are the Covid-19 infection rates in London boroughs for the week ending October 24, according to official data
Almost 20 NHS trusts in England are already treating more coronavirus patients than at the peak of the first wave, according to official statistics that come amid warnings hospitals across the country could run out of beds before Christmas
SAGE’s presentation of the estimates of the median R rate in the four nations of the UK. The bars represent different independent estimates, the grey shaded areas represent the combined numerical range and the black bars are the combined range rounding to one decimal place
SAGE’s presentation of the median R rate in different NHS regions of England. The bars represent different independent estimates, the grey shaded areas represent the combined numerical range and the black bars are the combined range rounding to one decimal place
SAGE’s presentation of the growth rate of Covid-19 in the NHS England regions. The bars represent different independent estimates, the grey shaded areas represent the combined numerical range and the black bars are the combined range rounding to one decimal place
SAGE’s presentation of the median R rate in the UK, with bars representing different independent estimates
One Conservative elder statesman said: ‘Many of our MPs who won Red Wall seats last year and are making the most fuss about lockdowns are young and are not at risk personally.
‘They should think about their constituents in their 60s and over who are at much greater risk.’
The senior Tory, who is over 60, singled out four MPs who have been most outspoken – William Wragg, who represents Hazel Grove, Manchester, aged 32; Jake Berry, Rossendale and Darwen, 41; Chris Green, Bolton West, 47; and Dehenna Davison, Bishop Auckland, 27.
Act now to save Christmas, urge Government scientists as they warn Britain will exceed the worst-case scenario unless country goes into lockdown
By Elanor Hayward, Xantha Leatham and Victoria Allen for the Daily Mail
The national lockdown announcement is expected after government scientists said it was needed to save Christmas.
The experts believe soaring cases mean the UK could face 1,000 deaths a day within a month. Yesterday a further 274 fatalities were reported, compared with 136 a fortnight ago.
There is a lag of around three weeks between infections and deaths. The scientists told ministers that without further restrictions, the death toll will keep rising exponentially, and hospitals will be overwhelmed.
The number of virus patients in hospital has doubled in the past fortnight, with 10,708 currently being treated by the NHS.
If this trajectory of doubling every fortnight continues, there will be more than 20,000 patients in hospital by mid-November, higher than at the peak of the first wave.
The number of coronavirus infections is currently four times higher than was anticipated under the Government’s ‘worst-case scenario’ plan, which estimated that daily infections would be around 12,000 throughout October.
It leaves the country on track to exceed the previous worst-case scenario of 85,000 Covid-19 deaths this winter.
The new national lockdown comes after the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) called for urgent national action including the closure of all bars and restaurants and other venues where households mix indoors.
They believe ministers have left it ‘too late’ for a two-week ‘circuit-breaker’ lockdown – which they had called for in September – to work.
Instead, they demanded a longer national lockdown, similar to the month-long shutdown imposed yesterday in France.
They argued that this is the best option to bring the R rate below 1 and prevent hospital capacity being overwhelmed.
Data for the week between October 12 and October 15 suggests the rate of infection has increased significantly in some parts of the country
If new measures were introduced quickly, restrictions could potentially be lifted in time for Christmas, allowing people to reunite with their loved ones over the festive season.
A senior official said: ‘Time is marching on, we are two months to Christmas… the more the numbers increase, the more difficult it is to turn it around.’
On Tuesday, it emerged that ministers had been told to prepare for 85,000 deaths this winter, with 500 deaths a day for at least three months and more than 300,000 hospitalised.
But Government scientists said yesterday that this ‘reasonable worst-case scenario’ has already been breached.
The planning document had estimated there would be 100 deaths a day by the end of October, but Britain has already recorded three times that amount on some days this week.
In a newly released document from a Sage meeting on October 7, scientists said: ‘In England, we are breaching the number of infections and hospital admissions in the reasonable worst-case planning scenario…
‘The number of deaths is also highly likely to exceed reasonable worst-case levels within the next two weeks.
‘Were the number of infections to fall in the very near future, this exceedance of the reasonable worst-case scenario could be modest and short-lived, but if R remains above 1 then the epidemic will further diverge from the planning scenario.’
Another newly revealed Sage statement, from October 14, said: ‘The number of daily deaths is now in line with the levels in the reasonable worst case and is almost certain to exceed this within the next two weeks.’
The documents also show that for weeks, scientists have been calling for the closure of bars and restaurants to ‘anything but takeaway service’.
A document from October 7 – produced by SPI-M-O, a sub-group that reports to Sage – said there was ‘clear evidence’ for shutting them to slow the growth of the epidemic.
So what’s the TRUTH about Britain’s second wave? R rate drops again and symptom-tracking app says outbreak is ‘stable’ – but Imperial warns of 96,000 cases a day and even ONS claims infections are ‘rising steeply’
There is no doubt that coronavirus infections are still surging in the UK but mathematicians and scientists don’t agree on how bad the second wave really is.
A raft of statistics have been published in the past 48 hours with conflicting estimates of the number of people getting infected with the virus ranging from 35,000 to 96,000 per day, and some casting doubt over doom-laden warnings of a repeat of March’s catastrophe.
Statistics published this week have produced a wide range of possible daily infections in England, from as few as 34,000, according to an estimate by King’s College London to as many as 96,000, according to the Government-run REACT study
One of the Office for National Statistics’ top Covid-19 analysts today said cases in England are ‘rising steeply’, while an epidemiologist behind another project said people could be ‘reassured’ that the virus isn’t out of control.
Of studies estimating the numbers of new infections each day in England, the ONS put the figure at 51,900; King’s College’s Covid Symptom Study said 34,628; a Cambridge University ‘Nowcast’ said 55,600; and the Government-funded REACT study by Imperial College London put it at 96,000. The Department of Health’s official testing programme is picking up 22,125 infections each day, but is known to miss large numbers without symptoms.
All the calculations have increased since their previous estimates and are in agreement that the outbreak is getting worse, but the speed at which this is happening is unclear.
Meanwhile, SAGE today published its weekly estimate of the R rate and said the speed of spread has dropped. The Government’s scientific advisers put the ranges for the UK and England at 1.1 to 1.3, down from 1.2 to 1.4 last week. They said, however: ‘SAGE is almost certain that the epidemic continues to grow rapidly across the country.’
Numbers of people being admitted to hospital and dying of coronavirus continue to rise rapidly, with an average of 230 deaths per day now being announced and 10,308 people in hospital with Covid-19, increasing by more than 1,000 per day.
These will keep increasing for the coming weeks and months even if cases start to slow down or even fall, officials say, because hospitalisations and deaths are ‘baked in’ by infections that happen two to three weeks earlier.
One statistician not involved with any of the predictions – Professor James Naismith, from the University of Oxford – said there were ‘uncertainties’ in all of them, meaning no one number was correct. He added: ‘We can be almost certain that we will see an increase in the number of deaths per day from Covid-19 over the next few weeks.’