01/11/2020 11:43 GMT

Iain Duncan Smith Claims Government Has 'Given In To Science' Over Lockdown

The former minister said the country was "impersonating the Grand Old Duke of York".

Iain Duncan Smith has claimed the government has “given in to the scientific advisers” over its decision to impose a second national coronavirus lockdown.

In a series of tweets, the Tory MP and former minister said the way in which Boris Johnson had been “pressurised” by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) was “unprecedented”.

He added: “Normally, advisers advise & ministers decide. Yet that system has broken down with Sage believing its advice to be more like commandments written on stone and its members publicly lecturing the government over the airways when it disagrees.

“This is despite the fact that many of its recommendations have been hotly disputed by other reputable scientists.”

Duncan-Smith’s comments come despite the fact Sage has been recommending stricter lockdown measures for weeks and it was only after the latest data showed infection rates were rising sharply.

On Saturday afternoon the UK surpassed one million confirmed Covid-19 cases. 

It has become clear in recent weeks that coronavirus is now spreading faster than even the worst predictions of scientists. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) infection survey found cases have “continued to rise steeply” with an average of 51,900 new cases per day of Covid-19 in private homes between October 17 and 23.

This represents a 47% jump in cases in just one week. 

Government scientists now believe deaths could reach 500 per day within weeks, with the toll already topping 300 twice in the past seven days. 

Advisers called for a circuit breaker almost six weeks ago, but as the number of cases and hospitalisations continued to escalate it became clear that two weeks of restrictions would no longer be enough to control the virus and drive down the reproduction number, or R value, of the virus below one.

The moves are also designed to address the problem of pressure on the nation’s hospitals to cope with a second wave. A recent meeting of Sage found the rate of infections and hospital admissions was now “exceeding the reasonable worst case scenario planning levels”.

Separate figures from the Zoe app study run by King’s College London suggests the number of daily new Covid-19 cases in the UK is continuing to steadily increase, but is not surging.

Researchers there said there are currently 43,569 daily new symptomatic cases of Covid in the UK on average over the two weeks up to October 25 (excluding care homes). 

Elsewhere, Michael Gove on Sunday admitted England’s four-week national lockdown could be extended beyond December 2 if coronavirus infection rates do not significantly fall.

The Cabinet minister said he believed the restrictions announced by Boris Johnson would bring down the R value, but warned that people may have to stay at home for longer if not.

Pubs, bars, restaurants and non-essential retail will close from Thursday for four weeks across England, with furlough payments at 80% extended for the duration of the new measures.

People will be allowed to exercise and socialise in public spaces outside with their household or one other person, but not indoors or in private gardens, and will be able to travel to work if they cannot work from home.