Cases still too high to reduce distancing to one metre, according to independent SAGE member

22 June 2020, 11:40

By Seán Hickey

A public health expert said that the UK is not ready to reduce social distancing to one metre, as coronavirus cases are too high.

"I don't think the level of cases is low enough" said Dr Gabriel Scally, President of the Epidemiology and Public Health section of the Royal Society of Medicine and a member of the independent SAGE group, which monitors the coronavirus pandemic and recommends how the UK moves forward, similarly to the government advisory SAGE committee.

Nick Ferrari began the conversation with the government plans to announce relaxed measures tomorrow which will see social distancing being reduced to one metre.

"I'm not going to be enormously pleased because I don't think the time is right" said Dr Scally. He pointed out to Nick that there is currently 3,000 new confirmed cases of coronavirus per day and yet "we're only finding a minority of those." In which case, he was of the opinion that the UK cannot move forward in it's coronavirus response.

"I would much prefer if the test and tracing system was working – it's not as we know and won't be fully working 'til September, so I don't think things are in the right place for any real substantial relaxation."

The independent SAGE member told Nick that now is not the right time to reduce social distancing
The independent SAGE member told Nick that now is not the right time to reduce social distancing. Picture: PA

Nick argued that "we have to balance the economy" and waiting until it is safer to do so in September might be far too late. Dr Scally acknowledged this but noted that "the distance issue is a big thing and at two metres the chance of spread is ten times" and we have already seen some easing of lockdown with two metre distancing still in place.

"The World Health Organisation is contented with one metre" Nick rebuked, wondering why the independent SAGE member felt maintaining two metres was paramount.

Dr Scally argued that "the numbers have come really well down" under two metre restrictions and there is potential for numbers to rise again if this is abolished.

"If people are going to be in restaurants and in pubs for a period of time, well that's not so good either" the independent SAGE member warned, in sharing the difference in transmission rate between gathering indoors versus gathering outdoors.

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