October 30, 2020

Independent SAGE calls for ‘Emergency Action’ to slow spread of Virus as Hospitals in North expected to reach March levels in a Week

  • Independent SAGE demands package of emergency measures to slow spread of COVID-19
  • Hospital admission rates in north of England set to reach levels seen on 23 March in London within a week, new figures show
  • Northern Ireland is new transmission ‘hotspot’ with confirmed weekly cases tripling in last fortnight
  • COVID-19  spreading most rapidly in those aged 16-24
  • “No amount of contact tracing will work at the moment,” says Professor Karl Friston of University College London. “It’s gone too far.”
  • Only Northern Ireland has managed to increase testing in the last month and proportion of test results received promptly in England is declining
  • Government failure to fix Test & Trace has left it with limited options to stem the spread, warns panel of expert scientists
  • Existing restrictions not sufficient to reverse growth. Any new restrictions must be backed by clear messaging, financial support for individuals and businesses and a clear “exit strategy”

Independent SAGE is calling for:

  • a return to 2m social distancing guidelines
  • suspension of indoor service in pubs and restaurants
  • a switch to online teaching in universities
  • Test & Trace to be brought into an integrated public health system
  • ban on households mixing
  • Resumption of government daily press briefings
  • Schools must only be closed as a ‘last measure’

Independent SAGE is demanding a package of “emergency measures” from the government to bring the spread of COVID-19 under control, as new figures show hospital admission rates in the north of England increasing rapidly.

The panel of expert scientists, chaired by former chief scientific adviser Sir David King, warns that the government’s failure to fix Test & Trace may have left it with limited options to stem the spread of the virus.

“The window of opportunity for enhanced contact tracing has passed. It’s gone too far,” said Professor Karl Friston of University College London. “No amount of contact tracing will work at the moment.”

At current rates of growth, the number of COVID-19 hospital admissions per million people in the North West, North East, Yorkshire & Humber will be at the levels seen in London on 23 March within a week.

Northern Ireland has emerged as another transmission hotspot with weekly confirmed cases tripling over the last two weeks. Highest infection rates continue to be seen in younger people, with COVID-19 spreading most rapidly in those aged 16-24.

The government is expected to announce tighter restrictions next week but Independent SAGE says the time for action is now. Any new measures must be accompanied by a financial support package for individuals and businesses and a clear “exit strategy”. It has also renewed its calls for an urgent review of the Test, Trace, Isolate, Support system and recommended that  Test & Trace be brought into an integrated public health system.

“We need a clear exit strategy from tighter restrictions, with clarity on key settings such as higher education and hospitality and a focus on proactive community engagement,” said Dr Tolullah Oni.

Urgent recommendations outlined by Independent SAGE include: a return to the 2m social distancing rules; suspension of indoor service in pubs, cafes and restaurants; a ban on households mixing; and a switch to online teaching in universities. Schools should only be closed as a “last measure”.

About Independent SAGE:

Independent SAGE is a group of scientists who are working together to provide independent scientific advice to the UK government and public on how to minimise deaths and support Britain’s recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. Sir David King, the former Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK government, chairs the group and oversees its reports.