UK faces ‘paralysis’ and tens of thousands of extra deaths if government refuses lockdown, COVID experts warn

Will Taylor
·News Reporter
·3-min read
Paramedics remove a gurney from the back of an ambulance parked outside Guy's Hospital in London on December 29, 2020, as a new strain of the coronavirus appears to be behind the recent upsurge in cases, heaping further pressure on the state-run National Health Service during its busiest winter period. - England is "back in the eye" of the coronavirus storm, health chiefs warned, with as many patients in hospital as during the initial peak in April. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
Tens of thousands of extra deaths could take place if the government delays on taking further action on coronavirus, an expert has warned. (Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images)

The UK faces tens of thousands of extra deaths unless a national lockdown is implemented very soon, a former chief scientific adviser to the government has warned.

Sir David King, who chairs the non-government Independent Sage group, said the country was in the worst crisis in most people’s memories as coronavirus cases continue to surge.

The UK reported more than 53,000 new cases yesterday, its highest daily rise yet.

A delay in making tougher decisions would cause more COVID fatalities and cause economic damage, King said.

His comments came as health secretary Matt Hancock said he would not impose a “Tier 5” on Wednesday, although some parts of England would move into Tier 4, the current highest level of coronavirus restrictions.

Read more: Entire UK needs to enter Tier 4 to avoid 'thousands of super-spreading events'

Watch: Sir David King calls for nationwide lockdown

King told Good Morning Britain: “At this point in time we’re in the worst situation the country has ever faced in our memories.

“It is easily the worst of the whole outbreak.

“We believe that delayed and tentative decision-making will result in the deaths of tens of thousands more people.

“It will paralyse the country, it will wreck our economy. We must act quickly and we must act now and we’re calling for an immediate nationwide lockdown immediately.”

He spoke ahead of a streamed meeting of Independent Sage, which creates policy advice but is separate from the government’s own Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies.

Data from Public Health England shows people infected by the recently identified new variant of coronavirus in the UK are 54% more likely to transmit it, Metro reported.

Experts including government adviser Professor Andrew Hayward believe the variant is driving most of the new cases.

King said also that schools are contributing to transmission of the virus and should be moved to remote learning, with the government supporting pupils to do that.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson will make a statement about the return of schools later on Wednesday.

Read more

The Tier 4 COVID lockdown rules explained
The Tier 3 COVID lockdown rules explained
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King also said there should be a “clear strategy to mark the end point of this new lockdown”, which he argued should continue until all people who have COVID-19, or who come into contact with those infected, are isolated from the population.

Hancock told LBC on Wednesday that more areas in England will be put into Tier 4, adding: "I'm not announcing anything above Tier 4 today, and we need to see in Tier 4 areas not just rules, but people taking that responsibility as they did in the first and second national lockdown to keep the rates under control.”

Earlier on Wednesday it was announced that the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine has secured approval for use.

Watch: What is long COVID?