7.14am EDT07:14 A date has been set for the chancellor’s spending review, in which Downing Street has suggested he could announce extra support to feed families through the school holidays. Rishi Sunak has announced he will unveil his spending plans for next year on Wednesday 25 November. The government had […]
Cases unlikely to fall rapidly under tier 2 and 3, says Prof Neil Ferguson
Prof Neil Ferguson, the scientist whose modelling prompted the UK-wide lockdown in March, has said measures in tier 2 and tier 3 areas are “unlikely to cause daily cases and deaths to fall rapidly”.
He told the PA Media news agency that modelling suggested this could leave the country with “high levels” of Covid cases, demand on healthcare and deaths “until spring 2021”.
Prof Ferguson, from Imperial College London, said:
The concern at the moment is that even if the measures adopted in tier 2 and tier 3 areas slow spread in the next few weeks, they are unlikely to cause daily cases and deaths to fall rapidly.
Modelling from all the academic groups informing Sage suggests that this could leave the country with high levels of Covid circulation, healthcare demand and mortality for several months, at least until spring 2021.
Alex Salmond has called for an independent inquiry to investigate whether Nicola Sturgeon broke the ministerial code by misleading Holyrood on what she knew about a government inquiry into his conduct.
Salmond has written to James Hamilton QC, a former director of public prosecutions in Ireland, asking him to broaden his investigation by probing Sturgeon’s claims in parliament she did not know about an internal inquiry into alleged harassment claims against Salmond until Salmond told her in April 2018.
In January 2018 two civil servants made formal complaints that Salmond had sexually harassed them when first minister. Their complaints were upheld in August 2018, but the internal government investigation was declared unlawful in January 2019 after Salmond challenged the fairness of the process in court.
It has since emerged Sturgeon met Salmond’s former chief of staff, Geoff Aberdein, in Holyrood on 29 March 2018, where Aberdein raised the allegations about Salmond. That meeting was brokered by a senior member of Sturgeon’s staff. It also emerged on Tuesday that Sturgeon’s principal private secretary, John Somers, twice met one of the complainers before she made her complaint official.
Hamilton was asked by John Swinney, Sturgeon’s deputy, to investigate whether Sturgeon interfered with the government inquiry. A Scottish government spokesman said: “We are aware of [Salmond’s] letter. The remit of Mr Hamilton’s work is well established, and was set out to the parliament by the deputy first minister.”
Number of Covid patients in hospitals could reach 25,000 within weeks
The number of people in hospital with Covid-19 could more than double within weeks, the former chief scientific adviser to the government has said.
Prof Sir Mark Walport said it was “not unrealistic” to think that there could be 25,000 people in hospitals by the end of November. It comes as pressure mounts on medical staff, with more than 9,000 patients in hospitals with Covid-19.
Asked if it is not unrealistic to think of 25,000 people being in hospital by the end of November, Walport, a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said: “It’s certainly not unrealistic to think about that.”
On hospital admissions, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “France, which has a very similar population to us, currently has about 16,000 people in hospital. It’s got 2,500 in intensive care beds compared with 852 here and roughly half the ICU beds in France are occupied. We’re seeing similar things in Spain.
“And these are in spite of these countries taking strong measures as well. So, the answer is that with our current measures – which are similar but with variations in different parts of Europe – there’s still evidence that there isn’t as much social distancing as there was when we clamped down on the first wave. And so we know that the risk is significant [and] that cases will continue to grow.”
He said that we are “still relatively early in the second wave” but added: “The number of cases is rising very significantly – it was 22,800 on 27 October and the seven-day average was just over 22,000. So there are an awful lot of cases.”
National lockdown ‘not appropriate’, says environment secretary
The environment secretary, George Eustice, who is doing the interview rounds on behalf of the government this morning, has said tiered restrictions for local areas have been introduced in a “timely way” and a national lockdown is “not appropriate”.
Speaking on Times Radio on Wednesday morning, he said: “In some ways we’ve always anticipated that there would be a second spike.
“That’s why we have been monitoring the situation closely since September, introducing, in a timely way, restrictions that are appropriate to the level of prevalence in particular parts of the country with these three different levels of intervention.
“We’re trying to intervene in things in a proportionate way across the country, but we don’t think it’s appropriate to have a national lockdown, because there’s parts of the country, like Cornwall, where the incidence of the disease is actually very low.”
The shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, said the government’s failure to use the school half-term for a circuit-breaker lockdown means they now need to “do something quickly to save Christmas”.
Ashworth said ministers had “lost a window of opportunity” for a national lockdown over the holidays, which its scientific advisers and Labour had been requesting for “two weeks or so”.
Speaking on Times Radio on Wednesday morning, he said government sources are planning for a tier 3 lockdown in most areas of the country “at some point in November”.
When asked if he thought families would be able to meet in groups of more than six on Christmas Day, he said:
That’s in the hands of all of us, and in the hands of the decisions it (the government) makes in the next week or so about what they’re going to do to get on top of this virus.
I think because they’ve missed this window of opportunity over the half term, I’m worried now that what we’ll see is deeper, more drastic lockdown action over November and December, which sadly probably does put Christmas at risk.
The government have got to do something quickly to save Christmas for everybody, because we want people to have a family Christmas, and I think it would be awful if people didn’t have that.