Drakeford calls for talks on cross-UK ‘circuit-breaker’ lockdown after SAGE advice

First Minister Mark Drakeford. Picture by the Welsh Government.

Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford has called for a cross-UK discussion on using a “circuit-breaker” lockdown in order to stop the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the First Minister of Scotland and the First Minister of Northern Ireland, he suggests a meeting to discuss the possibility.

A “circuit breaker” lockdown was recommended to the government by their scientific advisors three weeks ago, newly published documents revealed today.

Minutes from a 21 September meeting of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), published on the government website on Monday night, showed that a short period of lockdown was at the top of a list of measures to be considered for “immediate introduction”.

SAGE, which has provided scientific and technical advice to ministers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, warned that “not acting now” would result in a “very large epidemic with catastrophic consequences” amid a rising number of coronavirus cases.

In his letter, Mark Drakeford said that the advice “reflected the considerable work on circuit-breaker measures carried out by SAGE, which can be effective in the circumstances we are now seeing in various parts of the UK”.

“As I suggested yesterday, we should discuss collectively what circuit-breaker options might best serve to bring the virus – and the R number – under control across the UK,” the First Minister said.

“I would therefore request again that you urgently convene a further meeting of COBR(M) specifically to discuss circuit-breaker measures.”

 

‘Marginal’

SAGE warned three weeks ago that “a package of interventions will need to be adopted to prevent this exponential rise in cases” and “single interventions are unlikely to be able to reduce incidence”.

At the top of a shortlist of “non-pharmaceutical interventions that should be considered for immediate introduction” was a “circuit-breaker”.

The SAGE minutes described this as a “short period of lockdown to return incidence to low levels”.

Other measures SAGE recommended for consideration included advice to work from home for all those that can, banning people mixing with other households, the closure of all bars, restaurants, cafes, indoor gyms and hairdressers, and for all university and college teaching to be online unless essential.

The minutes also stated that the NHS Test and Trace system in England was “having a marginal impact on transmission at the moment”.

“Unless the system grows at the same rate as the epidemic, and support is given to people to enable them to adhere to self-isolation, it is likely that the impact of Test, Trace and Isolate will further decline in the future,” the document added.

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