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We need full lockdown to deal with new virus strain, expert says

Test and trace had “no chance” once it was taken out of public health care system.
22 December 2020 , Katie Coyne

Lockdown and the tier system is a “blunt instrument” of last resort when the pandemic could have been managed with a better run test and trace system, argued Sir David King.

The former chief scientific advisor and chair of Independent Sage told Sky News on Monday (21 December) that tier 4 in London and the South East was put in place too late, and that the country now needed to go into lockdown.

He said experts knew three weeks ago a new strain of the virus had emerged and added it was “almost certainly” present throughout the country. But Westminster had a track record of doing “far too little, far too late”.

King complained Whitehall had poured billions into private companies with just a “fraction” put into public health that could have managed the disease. A speedier response, and proper test and trace would have saved 60,000 lives as well as the economy, he said.

He said: “What I really am extremely frustrated about is that right since the beginning, since February, the government has not handled the disease as we always know we must handle a pandemic or an epidemic – which is [to] separate the people who have the disease from the rest of the population.

“The instrument that we're using now, the tier system and the lockdowns, is a blunt instrument. We are all separated from each other. So I'm afraid I don't hear anyone talk about the test and trace system anymore.

“We've never had it up and running because it was taken out of the public health care system where the specialists are and given to non-specialist health care companies who have no experience in health care at all. I would say there was no chance of it ever succeeding.”


He added: “There's a false dichotomy between the economy and the health of the nation, a false dichotomy. If you let this disease run, your hospitals will become overwhelmed and you'll have to go into lockdown.

“So I'm afraid too little too late is the story of the whole year. I would say 60,000 deaths could have been avoided in this country if we had taken quick action in the beginning and our economy would be up and running.”

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