The imposition of local lockdowns are failing to stop a second wave of coronavirus, according to experts.
A ban on households mixing indoors was introduced in Northern Ireland yesterday and may apply in Scotland from Friday because the 2 countries diverged from England’s more lighttouch approach.
Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said there was evidence that the ban on households mixing had helped contain rising cases within the west of Scotland but that it must be applied across the country.
It came as experts said there was little evidence that the piecemeal restrictions introduced in parts of England over the summer had worked, with the infection rate rising sharply in most areas where local measures had been imposed.
Coronavirus cases have risen rapidly across Greater Manchester within the past month, a minimum of doubling altogether but one of its 10 boroughs, despite restrictions imposed on 31 July. The infection rate is now quite 100 cases for every 100,000 people in seven boroughs, quite triple the national average.
Bolton’s infection rate has risen tenfold since 22 August, from 18.4 cases for every 100,000 people to 187.5 within the week to 19 September, despite being under the strictest measures in England for the past fortnight.
The town’s measures include a ban on mixing between households indoors, privately gardens or in bars, pubs or restaurants. it is a 10pm curfew on nightlife, while restaurants, pubs and cafes are restricted to takeaway only. Officials said the town’s cases had not increased in recent days, but that it had been too early to say whether the measures were working, with one saying the slowdown won’t reflect the underlying infection rate.
In Leicester, where parts of the town and surrounding area are under varying restrictions since 30 June, the quantity of positive cases fell during July but has since begun to increase . Its infection rate remains stubbornly high, with 85 cases for every 100,000 people, although far below the 135 when it had been the first area to be placed in local lockdown.
“If the thought was to suppress the infections in Leicester, Greater Manchester, Blackburn and much of the north-west, then it’s failed. It’s not working,” said Paul Hunter, of the University of East Anglia . He cited a graph shown by Chris Whitty, the chief medic , which showed cases rebounding in many areas where restrictions are in place .
The failure of local lockdowns, he said, was probably partially thanks to problems with the £10bn test and trace programme, which is failing to achieve about half all close contacts of infected people in worst-hit areas. The measures in place were light-touch, so their impact would be minor, he said, with compliance likely to be but it had been during the entire lockdown.
Linda Bauld, a professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, said the measures announced by Boris Johnson were “not as stringent as may have been expected”, adding that some, just like the 10pm curfew on nightlife, were already in place in parts of the country.
Dr David Strain, of Exeter University, also questioned the logic of the new nationwide curfew: “Closing down restaurants and pubs earlier will do little to stave the spread for as long as multiple different households can interchangeably meet .”
Eleanor Roaf, director of public health for Trafford, in Greater Manchester, said the failures of test and trace and thus the confusion over the principles meant it had been difficult to say whether the localised restrictions had worked.
The infection rate has quite doubled in Trafford from 19.4 cases per 100,000 to 53.7 within the past five weeks, despite it having been under extra measures since 31 July.
‘If the thought was to suppress the infections in Leicester … and much of the north-west then it isn’t working’
University of East Anglia