US city's spike in COVID-19 infections should be warning to UK, says Sage scientist

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer
A man walks past a mural painted over wood used to board up a closed business on Sixth Street in Austin, Texas. (PA)

After a dramatic rise in coronavirus infections in Austin, Texas, a member of the government’s team of science advisors has warned the UK could face a similar increase.

Sir Jeremy Farrar, who attends the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), has previously spoke out against reducing lockdown restrictions in the UK.

Now, following the news that Austin saw 425 new COVID-19 cases – the most the city has had in a single week – since lifting lockdown measures, Sir Jeremy has restated his position.

He tweeted: “Challenge lifting restrictions. Lockdowns suppressed transmission, reduced number people infected. They have not changed the virus.”

Sir Jeremy said the fastest way to get to of the first wave of coronavirus cases is to “deal with the first wave”.

He added: “Reduce new cases, reduce transmission in community/care homes/hospitals/prisons as far as possible, have test-trace-isolate fully functional and robust with surge capacity, clinical care for those who do get ill and have the trust of the public. Before restrictions are lifted.

“It is safest but also quickest way out of first wave of epidemic. Get it wrong, have rebounds, increase in cases, allow local outbreaks to grow into regional epidemics and it is very difficult to reimpose restrictions on society and the restrictions will go on/off for longer.”

Sir Jeremy, a medical researcher and former head of Oxford’s clinical research unit in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, has previously warned that the UK is on course to be the worst affected case in Europe.

He also warned on Twitter that the government was wrong on its timing to lift lockdown restrictions.

Sir Jeremy wrote: ”COVID-19 spreading too fast to lift lockdown in England.

"TTI (test, trace and isolate) has to be in place, fully working, capable (of) dealing (with) any surge immediately, locally responsive, rapid results and infection rates have to be lower."

Women wearing face masks as a preventive measure walk on the street in Cambridge as lockdown measures were reduced. (PA)

Government advisers have voiced concerns that plans to ease lockdown measures this week have come too soon and could cause a spike in the spread of coronavirus.

Sir Jeremy and fellow Sage member Professor John Edmunds said ministers were taking risks by allowing the gradual reopening of shops and schools and larger gatherings to meet in private.

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