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Lockdown could last ‘several more weeks’, Government adviser warns

PUBLISHED: 10:38 10 April 2020 | UPDATED: 15:04 10 April 2020

Quiet streets during the Coronavirus lockdown in Fakenham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Quiet streets during the Coronavirus lockdown in Fakenham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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The coronavirus lockdown will have to remain in place for “several more weeks”, one of the scientists advising the Government has said.

Quiet streets during the Coronavirus lockdown in North Walsham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYQuiet streets during the Coronavirus lockdown in North Walsham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College said the social distancing measures appeared to be working better than expected but they would need to see more evidence the spread of the disease was being reduced.

The warning comes amid repeated calls to stay home and protect the NHS this Easter weekend.

“We made quite conservative assumptions about the level of contact reduction these measures would result in,” Prof Ferguson told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

“There is some preliminary evidence in terms of contact surveys, in terms of data from companies like Google about how people move, that we have seen even larger reductions in normal behaviour, contact, than we would have dared hope.

Quiet streets in Cromer during the Coronavirus Lockdown. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYQuiet streets in Cromer during the Coronavirus Lockdown. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

“That is good news but we have still got to see that reflected in case numbers coming down. It is only when we see the case numbers come down and how quickly transmissions have been reduced we can really conclude anything about what happens next, when these measures can be relaxed.”

Prof Ferguson said that the measures could be lifted in stages and he said there would need to be more testing for cases of the disease.

“Without doubt measures will be targeted, probably by age, by geography, and we will need to introduce - in my view - much larger levels of testing at a community level to really be able to isolate cases and more effectively identify where transmission has happened,” he said.

Members of the Norfolk Resilience Forum, along with their Suffolk counterparts, have warned: “this is a public health emergency, not a public holiday.”

Council leaders and tourist bosses in Great Yarmouth have also warned the town is closed in a bid to deter visitors.

Wroxham on lockdown during coronavirus pandemic. PHOTO: Brittany WoodmanWroxham on lockdown during coronavirus pandemic. PHOTO: Brittany Woodman

Meanwhile, Laburnum Caravan Park at West Runton, between Cromer and Sheringham, has closed due to an influx of people “flouting the regulations” and putting staff in danger.

Last weekend, Norfolk Police issued 109 lockdown warnings and 16 court summons’, with officers also tasked with breaking up a birthday party.

Dr Paul Cosford, medical director for Public Health England, called for people to stay at home over Easter because social distancing measures are working.

He told Good Morning Britain: “People are complying (with the measures) in a very large majority and the impact that is having is that transmission is much, much less than it would otherwise be.

“The most important thing now is we continue (to stay at home) so we can get through the peak and come down the other side.”

After being asked about Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick driving 40 miles to deliver essentials and medicine to his parents, Dr Cosford said it fell into a “grey area” because the guidelines are “so complex”.

He added: “The principle is clear and that is stay at home unless you absolutely have to go out.”

Dr Cosford also said it is “not unreasonable” to expect the lockdown to continue for several weeks.

“I think several weeks isn’t unreasonable. Let’s hope its sooner than that,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“All my experience dealing with any sort of infectious disease suggests once you start getting things under control, that is the time you absolutely need to continue with all your measures so you can bring the disease right down, essentially to crack it across the country.”

He said the restrictions could be lifted in stages.

“I could conceive of circumstances in which some of the restrictions are lifted sooner and some are lifted later,” he said.

“Just for now, we are getting on top of this but we have got an awfully long way to go and it is absolutely critical that we continue with all the actions that are required of us.”


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