Britain could face national lockdown again next month, warned a former chief scientific adviser to the government.
Sir David King said the prime minister must act immediately to get it right or face a second wave of Covid-19 infection.
He also warned the nation was “nowhere near” to safely reopening schools next month.
He said, “We need a proper testing and tracking system by September. Otherwise, the full school opening will bring us right back. “
Sir David also said the government’s track and trace system “is still failing dramatically”. The mirror reports.
The 80-year-old heads the independent emergency scientific advisory group that oversees the Prime Minister’s scientific team.
He said, “The government has one month to review the current level of infectivity. Reopening schools should be a priority, but we believe we are still a long way from where it can safely be done. “
He said the R infection rate is expected to increase by about 0.5 in all open schools.
On Friday, government figures showed the national rate was between 0.8 and 1 – the tipping point – as infections picked up again. “We need a proper test and traceability system by September,” said Sir David.
“Otherwise I’m sure that the school opening will bring us back in a moment.
“We’ll see the government support lockdowns, and yes I think that could be done at the national level.”
Sir David, who founded Independent SAGE out of concern about political interference on the official advisory board, said: “Test and Trace is still failing dramatically.
“The trace here is a call and you are asked to isolate. There is no follow-up to whether this is the case.” He asked the Prime Minister to trace the private Serco company and let the councils run it.
“The government made a catastrophic mistake in tracking down contacts with a company with no medical expertise,” he said.
“The Serco contract can be extended this month. They had about £ 100 million so far. You will get £ 300 million if it is renewed. That does not work.
“When you see 3,000 new cases every day, that’s a huge number to deal with by any national body, but if you break them down into local regions, the numbers get manageable.”
Sir David said the government should follow other countries and place isolating members of multi-generational households in hotels to avoid infecting relatives.
Official figures show the UK has had 309,763 cases with 46,566 deaths. The WHO numbers show 19,187,943 confirmed cases worldwide and 716,075 deaths.
Tighter lockdown restrictions and social distancing measures in the US, Hong Kong, the Philippines and other countries are being reintroduced.
The Academy of Medical Sciences has estimated that up to 120,000 people could die from Covid-19 this winter.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs said:
“In just nine weeks, NHS Test and Trace tested over 3 million people for coronavirus, reaching nearly a quarter of a million people who either tested positive or were in close contact with someone who tested positive – to solve the transmission chain.
“Specially trained call handlers are working with national and local public health experts, NHS clinicians and local health protection teams and are playing an important role in containing the spread of the virus.”