Scientist advising Government calls for tougher lockdown


A scientist advising the Government on coronavirus has called for tighter lockdown restrictions, describing the current rules as "the problem" amid rising infections and deaths.

Professor Susan Michie, director of the Centre for Behaviour Change at UCL, said an "overwhelming" number of people were sticking to lockdown rules as she questioned how Government messaging was being targeted at the public.

It comes after the Government launched a new advert that asks people to "look in the eyes" of frontline medical workers and Covid-19 patients and tells them to stay at home.

"The advert, the Government messages and Priti Patel talking about fines is all on the basis that the main problem is that people aren't adhering to the rules that exist," Prof Michie told Times Radio.

"But actually all the data show that the overwhelming number of people are sticking to the rules with one exception which is self-isolation.

"In fact I would say that it's not so much people not sticking to the rules, but it's the rules themselves that are the problem."

Prof Michie, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (Spi-B), said current lockdown rules were not enough to tackle the more infectious variant of Covid-19, which Boris Johnson revealed may be associated with "a higher degree of mortality".

HEALTH Coronavirus
HEALTH Coronavirus

She said there were twice as many people going to work and using public transport compared to the first lockdown, and more children in classrooms because the Government "has widened the definition of who's a key worker".

She advocated for a much stricter lockdown, and possibly even moreso than the first lockdown in March last year.

Prof Michie described nurseries and places of worship, which are both allowed to remain open during lockdown, as "superspreading events", and said she had heard from a lot of people who are "really distraught" about going to work.

On what restrictions she would like to see, Prof Michie said: "Do what we did in March but consider are there other things we could tighten?

"The better the lockdown is now the shorter it will be.

"I think we should throw everything we can at really driving transmission down to a low level.

"Make a really effective test, trace and isolate system so when inevitable outbreaks occur there's a system there that can manage it and prevent it getting out of control again."

A further 1,401 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Friday, the Government announced, while a further 40,261 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus were recorded in the UK, bringing the total number to 3,583,907.