Lockdown in the UK should continue for the next 12 weeks despite being “crude” and “catastrophic” for the economy and mental health, a public health expert has said.
Professor Devi Sridhar, chair of public health at Edinburgh University, told Times Radio that harsh restrictions are the only viable option given the prevalence of Covid-19 across the country right now.
“With the numbers we’re at, there’s no other choice,” she said.
Prof Sridhar stressed a post-lockdown strategy must be put in place to suppress the virus going into the summer.
“For me, it’s a three-phase strategy – first is right now, it’s crude, it’s catastrophic for the economy and for people’s mental health, but a lockdown. Get those numbers down, protect the NHS for the next 12 weeks,” she said.
“When we get into March and hopefully numbers are low again and we get into seasonal change, get your testing and tracing and your border measures in place to really suppress.
“And then in the summer, instead of taking your foot off the gas and saying ‘let’s open up everything’, actually think ’how do we prevent this winter from happening again? How do we actually protect that low prevalence, get emergency teams in place in case there are flare ups… go in, have a quick, sharp one-week lockdown and get your testing and tracing to clear the virus.”
Prof Sridhar’s comments come as England’s chief medical officer warned the NHS is facing the “most dangerous situation” in living memory as the pandemic causes record deaths and hospital admissions.
As the country awaits the ramping-up of coronavirus testing and vaccinations this week, Chris Whitty said the only way to prevent avoidable deaths is for the public to stay at home wherever possible.
“Hospitals are always busy in winter, but the NHS in some parts of the country is currently facing the most dangerous situation anyone can remember,” Prof Whitty wrote in the Sunday Times.