Coronavirus UK: Senior Government advisor Sir John Bell says UK needs national lockdown

Senior Government advisor Sir John Bell says UK needs nationwide circuit breaker lockdown to get on top of ‘eye watering’ Covid numbers

A senior Government adviser today said the UK needs a short national ‘circuit-breaker’ lockdown as he called other coronavirus restriction ‘biting around the edges’.  

Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at the University of Oxford, warned there is an ‘eye-watering’ number of coronavirus cases which needs to be managed.

He suggested that only a tough national clampdown would suppress the virus, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I can see very little way of getting on top of this without some kind of a circuit-breaker because the numbers are actually pretty eye-watering in some bits of the country and I think it’s going to be very hard to get on top of this just biting around the edges.  

‘I think there will be every effort to keep schools open. If in the end we have to take kids out for two weeks, calm it all down, and then start ideally embedded in a much more rigorous testing regime then that’s maybe what we may have to do.’ 

His intervention comes as London was plunged into Tier Two lockdown last night, with Boris Johnson thanking Mayor Sadiq Khan for working with the Government to place the capital into the higher alert level.

Government adviser Sir John Bell has said a short national circuit-breaker may be necessary as he described other measures as ‘biting around the edges’

The Prime Minister also urged Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham to cooperate after accusing the Labour politician of holding the country to ransom.

Mr Burnham is resisting the Government’s move to place the region into Tier Three and is instead agitating for a nationwide lockdown, leaving negotiations with Ministers deadlocked.  

But Mr Johnson yesterday used a Downing Street press briefing to warn that he is prepared to elevate Greater Manchester unilaterally, with sources suggesting he could impose harsher measures as early as Monday.

Last night Britain’s biggest teachers’ union backed Sir Keir Starmer’s calls for a circuit-breaker lockdown to ‘get in control of the test, track and trace system’ and regain control of the pandemic.

The Labour leader said a complete shutdown lasting two to three weeks could be timed to take place over half-term to minimise disruption, but warned that ‘sacrifices’ would have to be made. 

The National Education Union (NEU) said the move, which would see secondary schools and colleges in England closed for two weeks at half-term, was urgently needed ‘to allow the system to work better’.   

More to follow.