Experts call for stricter 'Asia-style' lockdown rules to tackle new COVID variant

Ellen Manning
·3-min read
A day after London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced the spread of Covid is said to be out of control, South Londoners take their exercise in a cold Brockwell Park in Lambeth and during the third pandemic lockdown, on 9th January 2021, in London, England. The Coronavirus infection rate in London has exceeded 1,000 per 100,000 people, based on the latest figures from Public Health England although the Office for National Statistics recently estimated as many as one in 30 Londoners has coronavirus. (Photo by Richard Baker / In Pictures via Getty Images)
Experts have suggested stricter lockdown measures similar to put in place in Asia should be introduced in the UK. (Getty)

Stricter coronavirus lockdown measures such as those enforced in Asia should be introduced in the UK to stop the spread of the virus, experts have reportedly suggested.

Stricter measures should include the closure of places of worship as well as compulsory mask-wearing in order to stop the spread of the new COVID variant sweeping across the country, several experts have said.

Anthony Costello, a professor of global health at UCL and a former WHO director, told the Mirror: “We are in a national crisis with a pandemic out of control.

“We should have no nurseries open, no synagogues, no churches, no mosques. We should have compulsory masks, two-metre distancing. We have to take this really seriously – that’s what Asian states did.”

A day after London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced the spread of Covid is said to be out of control, Met police officers walk towards a group of Covid-deniers who are challenging lockdown rules and authoritarian control at passing south Londoners in Brockwell Park in Lambeth and during the third pandemic lockdown, on 9th January 2021, in London, England. The Coronavirus infection rate in London has exceeded 1,000 per 100,000 people, based on the latest figures from Public Health England although the Office for National Statistics recently estimated as many as one in 30 Londoners has coronavirus. (Photo by Richard Baker / In Pictures via Getty Images)
Experts have called for stricter lockdown measures. (Getty)

According to the newspaper, his comments were echoed by Christina Pagel, professor of operational research at University College London, who has previously questioned the efficacy of the latest lockdown.

She told the Mirror: “We have to start thinking about mandatory isolation, like in China and Vietnam. We have lots of empty hotels. We could use that space.”

Last year in Wuhan, people were forced to isolate, with officials carrying out door-to-door checks, while in Vietnam anyone entering the country or who had had contact with a confirmed case of the virus was sent to a quarantine centre.

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Susan Michie, a professor of health psychology at University College London and member of Independent Sage, said avoiding further deaths would mean “absolutely having to get right back to where we were in March, unfortunately”.

Professor Peter Horby, chairman of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), said the new variant had made the situation “more risky” and if infection rates do not slow then “we’re going to have to be even stricter”.

Watch: Hundreds take to streets of leafy Richmond despite lockdown

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer agreed, telling BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show that current lockdown rules “may not be tough enough”.

Calls for stricter lockdown measures come as Matt Hancock backed more stringent enforcement of the lockdown by police and warned that “every flexibility” of the rules could prove fatal.

The Health Secretary said the majority of people were “following the rules” but refused to criticise the police over complaints that some forces had been over-zealous in handing out fines.

His defence of the police comes after some forces came under fire, including Derbyshire Constabulary which handed out £200 fines to two women who drove separately to go for a walk at a remote beauty spot five miles from their homes.

Asked about the incident, Hancock told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme: “I’m absolutely going to back the police because the challenge here is that every flex can be fatal.

“You might look at the rules and think ‘Well, it doesn’t matter too much if I just do this or do that’.

“But these rules are not there as boundaries to be pushed, they are the limit to what people should be doing.

“The police are right to take very seriously the rules we have brought in. We haven’t brought them in because we wanted to, we’ve brought them in because we had to. Every flexibility can be fatal.”

The Health Secretary told the Andrew Marr Marr Show: “The most important thing is that people stay at home and follow the rules that we have got.

“People need to not just follow the letter of the rules but follow the spirit as well and play their part.”

Watch: What you can and can't do during England's third national lockdown