Top government lockdown adviser blames Downing Street policy for spike in coronavirus infections
Prof Stephen Reicher says most people are following rules
Criticism of government follows suggestions ministers are blaming public
One of the government’s top lockdown scientists has said the recent spike in coronavirus infections has been caused by Downing Street’s “bad policy” as opposed to people breaking the rules.
Prof Stephen Reicher, a psychologist who is a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours – which advises the government how the public might respond to specific coronavirus measures – called for Number 10 to “reset its rules and stop exposing us to risk of infection”.
Last week, when imposing new restrictions on Bolton, health secretary Matt Hancock blamed the infection spike on “socialising by people in their 20s and 30s”.
On the other hand, Prof Reicher – who is also a member of Independent SAGE group which scrutinises the government’s decision making – has blamed Downing Street’s “bad policy”.
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He was responding to new Office for National Statistics figures, released on Friday, which analysed the social impacts of COVID-19 on people’s behaviour last week.
Prof Reicher said “most people are following the rules”, with the figures showing 95% are wearing face masks while 69% are providing their contact details to the Test and Trace system when asked to do so.
He argued policies such as encouraging people to return to their workplaces (62% of people are now travelling to work) and visiting restaurants and pubs (30% compared to 9% at the start of July) is driving infections.
Prof Reicher wrote on Twitter: “The numbers getting exposed to infection because they are doing what the government is telling them to do vastly outweighs the number being exposed by breaking COVID restrictions.
“And yet the government blames the public for the situation we are now in.
“Yes, we must all act responsibly. Yes, we must stick to the rules.
“But above all, [the] government [must] reset its rules and stop exposing us to risk of infection.”
Boris Johnson’s nationwide lockdown, imposed on 23 March, ultimately led to a dramatic reduction in the number of coronavirus cases and deaths. He began lifting the lockdown in May, with sections of the economy allowed to reopen from mid-June.
However, the infection rate has increased in September. As of Thursday (17 September), the seven-day average of new infections was 3,354, compared to 1,080 on 17 August and 610 on 17 July.