Boris Johnson is facing intense pressure to impose another national lockdown within days, as more than 40 countries have banned arrivals from the UK in an effort to prevent a new rapidly spreading type of coronavirus.
Government scientific advisers have warned that inaction could cost tens of thousands of lives and risk “economic, human and social catastrophe”, as the new strain spreads across the UK and beyond.
The ministers urged people to avoid buying food out of panic as France failed to lift the ban on shipping and passengers from the UK on Monday despite a personal appeal from the prime minister, who asked Emmanuel Macron to put aside his “concern” about the new strain of COVID-19.
Speaking at a Downing Street press conference, Johnson sought to reassure other world leaders that Britain had responded quickly. “I hope everyone will see that once we were informed as a government about the speed of transmission of this new strain … we provided all the necessary information to the world.” the health organisation. We have taken immediate and decisive action the next day to limit the spread of the alternative within the UK, ”he said.
Johnson said delays in shipping via channels affected a small percentage of food entering the UK. “As the British stores said, their supply chains are robust and robust, so everyone can continue to shop normally.” However, some shoppers have reported empty queues and shelves in supermarkets.
Downing Street insisted on measures imposed over the weekend that set London and areas in the south and east of the country England In level 4 that is similar to closing but letting people elsewhere still mix on Christmas Day, the spread of the variant can be controlled.
But the message from health officials and scientists was very different. In a joint statement, public health managers in Greater Manchester said that anyone arriving in the area from a Tier 4 area or from Wales, which is also under lockdown, must self-isolate for at least 10 days.
Cases of the Covid mutation, which are believed to spread between people up to 70% more efficiently, have been detected across the UK, and Johnson’s chief scientific advisor said there is likely to be stronger limitations.
“I think the lesson you have to learn about this virus … is that it’s important to get ahead of it in terms of measures,” Sir Patrick Vallance said at a Downing Street press conference alongside Johnson. “I think this is likely to increase in the numbers of variables across the country, and I think it is therefore likely that the measures will need to be increased in some places in time, not reduced.”
Since the news emerged over the weekend about the rapid spread of the new variant across parts of England, at least 42 countries have banned all flights from the UK or said only their citizens may be allowed after testing negative for coronavirus. They include: Belgium, Italy, Austria, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Bulgaria, Hungary, Luxembourg, Slovakia, Poland, Romania, Switzerland, South Africa, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Croatia, France, Malta, Sweden, Turkey, Hong Kong, Canada, India, Russia, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait Jordan, El Salvador, Ireland, the Czech Republic, Colombia, Morocco, Chile, Finland and Argentina.
In a briefing on Monday, the scientists said they examined additional data and now have “high confidence” in that New breed It has a transmission advantage over other virus variants circulating in the UK.
“We still don’t understand the exact biological mechanisms,” said Peter Horby, a professor of emerging infectious diseases at the University of Oxford, who chairs the government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threat Advisory Group.). “So there is still a lot of uncertainty about exactly how it happened, and exactly how much additional portability is.”
Other scientists said the variable was unlikely to be largely contained in southern and eastern England, and indicated the UK is heading towards the peak of the first wave of hospitalizations and deaths, to accompany the additional winter toll on the NHS. A further 33,364 people had tested positive for the virus nationwide on Monday, and 215 people had died.
Johnson also confirmed that more than 500,000 people received the first dose of the only approved Covid vaccine, scientists said that the most stringent measures now could save the lives of those who have not yet been immunized.
Andrew Hayward, a professor of infectious disease epidemiology at University College London and a member of the Governmental Science Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said the new variant has the potential to spread across the UK and beyond.
“I realize we have restricted travel from Tier 4 areas … but this transportation is not only in those Tier 4 areas, it is present at some level across the country,” he said. “We are just entering a really critical phase of this epidemic, and it makes perfect sense … to act decisively across the country, as many other countries have done, despite being affected by this strain to our knowledge.”
When asked whether it would be desirable to have a national lockdown, Hayward said: “Personally, I think it is more evident to give a consistent national message because although the levels of risk vary in different parts of the country, they still exist.” big.
“What we are really doing is trying to limit transmission so that we can protect as many people at risk as possible and this will save us several more weeks, during which we can vaccinate people. I cannot give you an accurate estimate … but my opinion is that it will be in scope. Tens of thousands of lives.
“Increasing transmissibility, even taking exactly the same mortality rate for each person, will lead to many, many deaths unless one of them increases the effectiveness of control measures.”
Robert West, a professor of health psychology at the Institute of Epidemiology and Health at University College London, who sits on the advisory group on behavioral sciences for Sage, said his personal opinion is that the current system is “unlikely” to contain the spread of the virus.
He said, “We need to reset our strategy and quickly move to a zero-Covid strategy of the kind that many have suggested. This will include stricter but more reasonable social distancing rules across the country, and finally do what we should have done from the start – to build the kind of testing programs. And travel, isolation and support that they have in countries in the Far East.
“It sounds costly, but the alternative could be a catastrophic collapse in confidence in the country’s ability to control the virus and the economic, human and social catastrophe that will follow.”
When asked why Tier 4 measures are not being pushed across England, a spokesperson for Johnson said: “I would like to point out the fact that we were clear that people should not travel from Level 4 areas, and I will refer to the changes we have made in terms of Level 4”. “We are clear that people should stay home and limit human interaction.”
Asked if Parliament could be called in to allow angry MPs to debate the new measures, the spokesman said this would only be done to ratify any deal on Brexit. If we need to summon Parliament for Brexit purposes, we will.