'UK must adopt zero Covid strategy to stop new variants'

26 January 2021, 15:56

By Fiona Jones

The only way to stop new variants from becoming the most common form of the virus is to adopt a zero Covid strategy, the Lancet editor Richard Horton told Shelagh Fogarty.

His words of warning came after the news the Covid-19 pandemic has claimed the lives of more than 100,000 people in the UK, according to ONS data.

The medical journal's editor-in-chief said, "These variants have already spread far beyond their points of origin. They might not have been picked up by Test and Trace systems but they're out there.

"They will slowly become the more dominant varieties."

Mr Horton pointed out that the data is still yet to reveal whether the new variants, declared in the UK, South Africa and Brazil, are more deadly and infectious than the initial strain of the virus.

He continued: "The only way to reduce the risk of new variants is to be much more aggressive in the way that Australia has been, in the way that New Zealand has been, about going for zero Covid.

"I don't understand why we haven't adopted a zero Covid strategy, this is a proven way of controlling the virus, and yet we don't seem to be willing to take that extra step."

He questioned why the UK is not learning the lesson of countries who have "got it right."

The editor told Shelagh that Covid is "not going away" and the UK needs to be "much more aggressive" about adopting a stringent strategy with clear targets.

"We don't have a plan for coming out of lockdown, we don't have a zero Covid strategy. I just don't think we're taking it seriously enough," Mr Horton said.