It is too early for second national lockdown, ministers warned


It is "too early" for a second national lockdown and there is currently no evidence of a "what's called a second wave of coronavirus", a health expert has claimed.

Professor Carl Heneghan, director of Oxford University's centre for evidence-based medicine, said the country "can't afford to go now with harsh measures", saying there will be an inevitable resurgence in cases.

He added that there "has to be a level of immunity for this to become manageable", pointing to Sweden, which had a "rational debate" and kept the virus at manageable levels through the summer.

He also criticised the advice given to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and called for a "wider range of expertise in the room", adding that tighter restrictions may be needed "in the mid-winter when we might run into problems" and respiratory complaints increase.

Prof Heneghan told Sky News that Covid-19 was operating in a seasonal way similar to other respiratory infections, saying: "What we have to do now is slow down, this is a long winter."

He said: "If we go now it's too early. As it gets colder, as we're inside more, there will be more coughs and colds.

"If you're looking at a break and when we need it, we need it in the mid-winter when we might run into problems.

"There's no evidence right now of what's called a second wave."

Asked if Prime Minister Boris Johnson was wrong in that assertion, he told Sky News it is an "incredibly complicated area" requiring years of healthcare experience to fully understand.

He said: "This is about good advice, to the Prime Minister, to the Health Secretary, that allows a wider range of expertise to come on board, and if they did that they might look at the problem slightly different.

"I think over the next few weeks if we can see a slower, analytical approach to the data, and a different approach to the advice, the Prime Minister might see a subtle change in his language that reflects a need to normalise what's going on.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

"This is a seasonal effect now, if it becomes worse and it impacts on disease, then, yes, that's the point when we have restrictive measures, but that time is not now."

Prof Heneghan also pointed to the example of Sweden, which has "controlled the disease so that in the population it was at manageable levels".

He said: "Through the summer they had much higher cases than we had, when the impact of the disease is low ... that's creating population immunity, the only other way to do that is through vaccination.

"Even if we do have a vaccination there will be a need to get some level of population immunity is what we do for all other infections in the community."

He went on: "There are too many non-clinical people focusing on a single disease – Covid.

"Every time you decide to lock down you should have competing models that say 'what's the impact going to be on other diseases?' because it is huge every time you do that.

"That's why we're saying 'slow down, get a wider range of expertise in the room, so you can make a much more balanced decision' ... what about all the cancers, the heart disease, and then your educational, social situation, and the economy?

"They all have to go into the mix of the decision."