One of the government’s top coronavirus advisers has said last month’s Tier 1 local restrictions didn’t work.
In comments that will embarrass Boris Johnson, Dr Susan Hopkins said at Monday’s Downing Street press conference that they had “very little effect”.
Tier 1 rules were the least severe – allowing gatherings of six people from six different households – of Johnson’s three-tier local lockdown system for England, which was announced exactly five weeks ago.
Johnson had been advised by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) to impose a “circuit breaker” national lockdown.
But, under pressure from Conservative MPs angry at continued restrictions, he persisted with the localised system – which he was then forced to abandon for a national lockdown three weeks later as COVID-19 infections rapidly accelerated.
Sage member Dr Hopkins said at the briefing: “We see very little effect from Tier 1 and I think when we look at what tiers may be there in the future, we will have to think about strengthening them in order to get us through the winter months until the vaccine is available for everyone.”
She added the impact of Tier 2 restrictions varied in different places, though Tier 3 – the most severe – “had an effect”.
Health secretary Matt Hancock added “we absolutely hope to be able to replace the national lockdown with a tiered system similar to what we had before”.
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In light of Dr Hopkins’ comments, it suggests any tiered system will be different to the one introduced by Johnson last month.
The current national lockdown is set to end on 2 December, with Hancock saying it is too early to know the impact it has had on COVID infections.
“At the moment, most of the tests we’re getting back, and most of the positive cases, are from around the time the lockdown came in, so we are yet to see in the data – and it’s too early to expect to see in the data – the impact of the second lockdown.”