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Professor Devi Sridhar said it is “unrealistic” to expect people to obey tight coronavirus lockdown rules for months on end. The expert said the UK needed to learn from other countries and form a plan to stop having to fall back on nationwide lockdowns. It comes as the Government’s Chief Medical officer, Chris Whitty, went on BBC Breakfast to urge the public to continue to adhere to the restrictions, warning that the UK is heading into “worst point in the pandemic”
Speaking to TimesRadio, Professor Sridhar said: “The larger issue here is the UK has no clear strategy beyond reactive lockdowns whenever hospitals are under pressure.
“People have been in lockdown for almost a year and I think it is unrealistic for people to continue to distance and avoid mixing for months and months when what part of what makes us human is to interact and to be close to each other.
“We need a plan to stop these lockdowns and learn from other countries, those in East-Asia and the Pacific which are largely back to normal.
“Let’s looking at what are they doing which we are not.”
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She continued: “There are three things really, first they had a strategy so from that start they said no acceptable level of infection.
“I think in western countries and the UK there was always this idea that you could always have a certain level of infection as long as it didn’t really breach hospital capacity.
“The second thing is they have functional testing, tracing and isolating. Test results within 24-hours which we still do not have. Isolation, so actually paying people to stay home as an act of goodwill not just requesting it and then having people be penalised for it
“Third, robust border measures, you don’t keep having lockdowns and importing these strains. I find it amazing that schools are shut, I can’t visit y neighbours home, unemployment is rising, business are shut but the one thing I can do is go on a holiday to Dubai easily and return easily back without any testing at the airport.”
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Host Luke Jones then asked the professor if a lockdown was the only measure to sharply cut the number of infections on the short-term
In response, Professor Sridhar said: “Exactly the numbers we are at there is no other choice. I think for me it is a three-phase strategy, we need to have first from right now, a crude and catastrophic thing for the economy and people’s mental health, but a lockdown.
“Get those numbers down and protect the NHS for the next twelve weeks, when we get into March and hopefully numbers are low again we get to seasonal change get your testing and tracing and border measures in place to really suppress.
“Then in the summer instead of taking your foot off the gas, instead of opening up everything, actually think what can we do to prevent this winter from happening again.
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“Get emergency teams in place when there are flair ups be it in Manchester or Birmingham, Edinburgh or London, you can go in have a sharp one-week lockdown, get your track and trace in place, clear the virus.
“This is the model that works to the majority of people and the majority of people going.
She added: “There is a lot more that we can do but we need a plan.”
According to the Office for National Statistics around one in 50 people in England, which has been particularly badly hit by the new Covid strain first identified in Kent, is currently infected with the virus.
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