The Government has a month to deal with the level of infectivity as it stands now. Reopening schools should be a priority, but we believe we are nowhere near the point where it can be done safely”
The UK may go back into a national lockdown next month, a former chief scientific adviser to the government has warned.
Sir David King said the PM must act immediately to ‘get it right’, or face a second wave of Covid-19 infection.
He also warned that the nation is ‘nowhere near’ the safe reopening of schools next month.
He said: “We need a proper test and trace system by September. Otherwise full school opening will put us right back.”
He said: “The Government has a month to deal with the level of infectivity as it stands now. Reopening schools should be a priority, but we believe we are nowhere near the point where it can be done safely.”
He said the R rate of infection number is expected to rise by about 0.5 with all schools open.
On Friday, government figures showed the national rate as between 0.8 and 1 – the tipping point – as infections rise again. “We need a proper test and trace system by September,” said Sir David.
“Otherwise I’m sure school opening will put us right back.
We will see the Government backing lockdowns and, yes, I do think this could happen nationally.”
Sir David – who set up Independent SAGE amid concerns about political interference on the official advisory committee – said: “Test and trace is still failing dramatically.
“Tracing here is one phone call and you are asked to isolate. There is no follow-up as to whether people do.” He urged the PM to take track and trace from private firm Serco and let councils run it.
The Government made a disastrous mistake giving contact tracing to a firm with no healthcare expertise,” he said.
“The Serco contract is up for renewal this month. They’ve had roughly £100million so far. They’ll get £300 million if it’s extended. This is not working.
When you hit 3,000 new cases a day, it’s an enormous number for any national body to deal with. But break it down into local regions and the numbers become manageable.”
Sir David said the Government should follow other countries and put isolating members of multi-generational households in hotels to avoid infecting relatives.
Official figures show UK cases have hit 309,763, with 46,566 deaths. WHO figures show 19,187,943 confirmed cases worldwide and 716,075 deaths..
Tighter lockdown restrictions and social distancing measures in the US, Hong Kong, the Philippines and other countries are being reimposed.
The Academy of Medical Sciences has estimated up to 120,000 people here could die of Covid-19 this winter.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said:
“In just nine weeks NHS Test and Trace has tested over 3 million people for coronavirus and has reached almost a quarter of a million people who have either tested positive or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive – in order to break the chain of transmission.
“Specially-trained call handlers work with national and local public health experts, NHS clinicians and local health protection teams, and play a vital role in helping to stop the spread of the virus.”