UK nosediving into ‘hard lockdown’ if rule of six ignored, scientist warns

The UK will have to enter a fresh "hard lockdown" if people don't obey the new "Rule of Six", a top government advisor has warned.

Peter Openshaw, professor of experimental medicine, Imperial College London, says a “trickle” of cases can turn into a “cascade” – and he adds the country must act fast as even a delay of just a few days could potentially be "dangerous".

His comments come as concerns grow over an increase in Covid-19 cases in care homes, prompting the Government to send an alert to care providers to highlight the rising rates and to call for action.

The letter, which was sent on Friday, urges care bosses to “take the necessary action to prevent and limit outbreaks”, pointing out that in the last three days there had been an increase in notifications of coronavirus cases in care homes.

At the moment it is the workforce that is most affected, but the letter says that “clearly” there is a risk that the virus will spread to residents and in some cases already has.

Prof Openshaw, who is a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) which advises the Government on the threat posed by new and emerging respiratory viruses, said if the virus is in care homes it will inevitably lead to hospital admissions and deaths.

Speaking on Sky's Ridge On Sunday, Prof Openshaw said: "We know that these are very vulnerable pockets. It's not just in the younger people, it's starting to appear in people more vulnerable and that inevitably is going to be followed by hospital admissions and deaths so we need to act quickly.

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"And this isn't a game. We shouldn't be out trying to party as hard as we can in the run up to Monday's lockdown.

"We should all be really thinking about what we can do now to slow down the spread."

The concern over care homes comes as more than 3,000 coronavirus cases were recorded overall in the UK for the second day in a row – the first time since mid-May that recorded cases have been above that level on consecutive days.

The Government said that as of 9am on Saturday, there had been a further 3,497 lab-confirmed cases in the UK, slightly lower than the 3,539 cases recorded on Friday.

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Speaking about the rise in cases, Prof Openshaw said: "I think everyone is in agreement that we really need to act very quickly now in order to prevent this from growing exponentially.

"I think that's the main point is that we must act fast because it's so much harder to get this sort of thing under control if you delay.

"Even a few days is potentially going to be quite dangerous now at this particular moment."

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  • A key SAGE adviser also warned yesterday that England is “on the edge of losing control” of the virus amid "worrying" signs of Covid among middle-aged people, with infections in the over-50s soaring by 92% in a week.

    Professor Sir Mark Walport warned the public that England is on the brink of "losing control" of the viral outbreak as he urged people to cut off contact with friends and family.

    When Sophy Ridge asked Prof Openshaw if he believed Sir Mark is correct, he said: "Well yes I think that is right."

    It comes following reports that Nightingale Hospitals created to help the NHS cope during the initial surge of coronavirus cases are said to be being prepared for new patients from October 2.

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