Official documents have shown that the government’s scientific advisors called for an immediate "circuit breaker" to halt the spread of COVID-19 in a meeting held on 21st September.
The Labour Party has said the documents are “alarming,” following Liverpool being placed in the “very high” category of the government’s newly implemented three-tier system.
For the week of 2nd October, Office for National Statistics figures reported 11,444 deaths registered in the UK, meaning the number of deaths caused by COVID-19 has doubled every two weeks.
In Monday evening’s press conference, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said effective implementation was the key to slowing the spread of COVID-19 but was highly against the extreme measure of a full national lockdown. However, Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said he doubted the measures, even in the top tier, "would be enough to get on top of" stopping the spread of COVID-19.
He further commented that there is a lot of “flexibility for local authorities [...] to do significantly more."
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) are the government’s official scientific advisors. A SAGE document was released shortly after the announcement, highlighting that advisers had called for a short “circuit breaker” lockdown three weeks ago. The BBC also reports SAGE advised against socialising with other households indoors, called for the closure of bars, restaurants, cafes, indoor gyms and hairdressers, and also that all university classes should be held online.
SAGE also asked that the government urge people to work from home when they can, which was the only request fulfilled at the time.
In addition to the precautions published in the SAGE papers, advisors also stated the Test and Trace system was having only a "marginal impact", adding that the level of impact was likely to "decline further”. The same was said about curfews in bars and dining facilities.
SAGE also warned "single interventions by themselves are unlikely to be able to bring the R below one" and further advised that more stringent measures were needed both locally and nationally.
SAGE said if measures were as strict as those put into place in May, the epidemic could be put back “by approximately 28 days or more".
Currently, the three-tier system has placed 4.4 million people under restrictions as their areas have been categorised as “high alert”. The areas include Nottinghamshire, East and West Cheshire, north-east England, Greater Manchester and parts of South Yorkshire. Liverpool is presently the only location set to be in the “very high” category from 5 pm on Wednesday.