UK heading for new national lockdown within two weeks

The UK could be placed back under a national lockdown in two weeks, an expert has warned.

Anthony Costello, who is the ex-World Health Organisation director, said the country’s test and trace system needs to be fully overhauled.

At the moment, the £12billion system has been plagued with problems.

In the week up to September 30 in England, test and trace reached just 68.6 per cent of close contacts of people who tested positive for Covid-19 – the lowest since the scheme began.

Mr Costello, a member of Independent SAGE, said restrictions imposed in recent weeks will only pause the spread of coronavirus until a working tracing system is in place.

This Is Local London: Anthony Costello says current restrictions will not do enough (Image: PA)Anthony Costello says current restrictions will not do enough (Image: PA)

Speaking during an online conference on Friday, he said: “The reason we’re in this trouble is we didn’t set up a proper test, trace and isolate scheme in March.

“We had the chance to reform it when it wasn’t working. We didn’t do that.”

He said local so-called circuit breakers – like the 16-day restrictions in Scotland – may stay far longer if deaths keep rising.

He added: “I suspect in a couple of weeks the Government will be forced to go into some sort of national lockdown.”

Boris Johnson briefed Cabinet ministers yesterday afternoon ahead of the unveiling of a new three-tier system for local coronavirus restrictions.

The new system, which has sparked anger from leaders and councils in the north of England, is expected to lead to millions being banned from mixing indoors and outdoors and thousands of pubs being forced to close.

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It came as Robert Jenrick, the housing secretary, rejected calls for more financial support for areas affected by local restrictions, arguing that “the national debt is rising” and the government “can’t do everything” to protect all jobs.

In a sign of how the UK’s epidemic has grown in recent days, government figures have shown there are 3,451 Covid-19 patients in hospital in England, as of Sunday, up from 2,329 a week ago.

Meanwhile, there are 401 Covid-19 patients in ventilation beds, up from 310 a week ago.

A total of 544 patients with confirmed Covid-19 were admitted to hospitals in England on Friday, compared with 371 a week earlier.

And a further 12,872 confirmed UK coronavirus cases were recorded in the past 24 hours, bringing the country’s total to 603,716, according to government figures.

Data from the Department of Health and Social Care also showed an additional 65 deaths recorded on Sunday, bringing the official death toll to 42,825.

However, the total number of deaths registered with Covid-19 mentioned on the death certificate has reached 57,347.

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