England will face a resurgence of coronavirus cases before Christmas if the country returns to the tiering restrictions in place last month when the latest lockdown is over, government science advisers have warned.
The concern was raised in a consensus statement released on Friday in a batch of documents prepared by the outbreak modelling subgroup of Sage, the government’s expert advisory committee.
The consensus document, signed by modelling teams around the country, warns that while an initial analysis found the most stringent tier 3 restrictions had a “noticeable impact” on transmission, it was unclear whether the measures were sufficient to drive the pandemic into decline.
Scientific advisers called in September for a two-week “circuit breaker” and other interventions to contain the pandemic, three weeks before the prime minister announced the three-tier Covid alert levels.
Immediately after the announcement, Prof Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, conceded that the most severe tier 3 restrictions would not be enough to drive the R below 1, although extra local interventions were meant to be added to the baseline measures. The R figure reflects the average number of people a person infected with coronavirus passes the disease on to.
Figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Friday confirmed that the rate of increase in coronavirus infections has slowed across England, while according to Sage R remains marginally above 1, meaning the pandemic continues to grow. In its latest estimates, Sage reported the number of new cases was growing by 1% to 3% per day in the UK.