LONDON (Reuters) – A prominent epidemiologist warned on Tuesday that the British government needed to implement stricter lockdown rules due to the Coronavirus to avoid a new wave of deaths from a new type of disease.
Britain reported 41,385 new COVID cases on Monday, the highest number since testing became widely available in the mid-2020s, and hospitals have more COVID patients than the first wave of the pandemic in April.
Andrew Hayward, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at University College London, told the BBC: “We are entering a very dangerous new phase of the epidemic, and we will need early and decisive national action to prevent disaster in January and February.” .
“We are really looking forward to a situation where we are heading to a near-shutdown,” he said.
More than 71,000 people in Britain have died within 28 days of a positive test result for the disease.
Britain introduced a new level of tighter restrictions in parts of England on December 19, closing non-essential retail stores and mostly banning people from meeting in person, due to a new type of COVID that has struck people more easily.
A week later, the restrictions were extended to a larger area covering nearly half of England’s population. But the government has so far resisted re-imposing a new nationwide lockdown.
Asked about Hayward’s concerns, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman told reporters that the government was keeping the measures under constant review.
Schools in England are set to reopen to many students on January 4. Hayward said that from a purely epidemiological standpoint, it would make sense to keep it locked down for longer, but that the difficulties poorer students face in online learning mean limitations to other areas of public life may be the best.
Authorities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have established their own school policies and procedures to combat the Coronavirus.