Covid outbreak 'unlikely to be completely controlled' by December 2, SAGE member tells LBC

1 November 2020, 11:01 | Updated: 1 November 2020, 11:14

By Joe Cook

A SAGE scientist has told LBC’s Swarbrick on Sunday that the coronavirus outbreak is "unlikely to be completely controlled" by 2 December, despite the Government introducing a new national lockdown.

Professor Sir Mark Walport told Tom there is "no guarantee" the reproduction (R) rate of the virus will be brought below one during the lockdown, meaning cases will continue to rise exponentially.

The former chief scientific advisor explained that the new “measures should bring it under control”, adding that “looking into the future is an imperfect art”.

Read more: England prepares for second national lockdown lasting until December

On Saturday, Boris Johnson ordered England into a second national from Thursday until 2 December, telling people to stay at home and forcing pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops to close.

However, in a blow to government hopes that the virus will be curbed by 2 December, Sir Mark said: “It is unlikely to be completely controlled by then, but hopefully the numbers will be turning.”

“These measures should be sufficient to get [the R rate] down”, Sir Mark added, “But is there an absolute guarantee? No.”

He continued: “The evidence is that in some parts of the North West and a bit of the North East, the numbers are coming quite close to one on the Tier 3 restrictions at the moment. But it does very much depend on people complying.

“This shouldn’t be viewed as some kind of punishment, it is actually protecting people - ourselves as individuals and others - it is actually about bringing the epidemic under control.”

The Prime Minister announced the new restrictions in a Downing Street briefing on Saturday evening alongside Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, and Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser.

It comes after scientists warned deaths from Covid-19 are feared to exceed "reasonable worst case planning levels" in the coming weeks, with more than 85,000 people expected to lose their lives to the virus by April.

Echoing the comments from his successor Sir Patrick, Professor Walport told LBC: “The NHS you can already see is under great pressure.

“Hospitals in the North particularly are under tremendous clinical pressure and whilst you might look at the South West and say they have many fewer infections, they have a lower population, they have a lower bed capacity.

“So intensive care could come under pressure very, very quickly indeed... It means a lot of other serious conditions, which may require intensive care for quite short periods the beds might not be available.”

He continued: “Remember also that the infections so far were predominately in younger people and that is now spreading to all generations.”

“Anyone that tells you that the answer is simply to shield the elderly - that won’t work because people can’t be shielded in that way, because many people live in multi-generational households, care is provided by younger people. It won’t work.”