The former government scientific advisor Sir David King has warned that the UK is “heading back into lockdown” within weeks, unless test and trace is sorted.
Sir David has warned that unless Prime Minister Boris Johnson acts now with the programme then the UK will be heading for a second lockdown.
Sir David told the Mirror, “We need a proper test and trace system by September. Otherwise full school opening will put us right back.”
He warned that we are “nowhere near” the safety levels required to reopen schools in September and that Johnson must “get it right” in August, or we will be heading into a second wave as the current track and trace is “disastrous.”
Once Schools reopen at the end of this month, it is expected that the R transmission rate is expected to rise by around 0.5.
Sir David said told the newspaper, “The government has a month to deal with the level of infectivity as it stands now.
“Reopening schools should be a priority, but we believe we are nowhere near the point where it can be done safely.”
The government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) warned on Friday, that the R number has risen in London, the Midlands, the Northeast, Yorkshire, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The R number is the number of people one person with which coronavirus can affect. There has been an increase from last week’s, between 0.8 to 0.9 which is no between 0.8 to 1.0, SAGE warned.
The government scientific advisors cannot be confident the R number is now below 1 in England.
Sir David, heads the Independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, which shadows Johnson’s scientific team
The former scientific advisor said, “We need a proper test and trace system by September.
“Otherwise I’m sure school opening will put us right back.
“We will see the government backing lockdowns and, yes, I do think this could happen nationally.”
He added, “The government made a disastrous mistake giving contact tracing to a firm with no healthcare expertise.”
He said, the government must “plan for all contingencies” as they prepare to reopen schools.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme last week, Professor Furguson said, “The risk then is that big schools, comprehensives, universities, FE colleges, link lots of households together, reconnect the social network which social distancing measures have deliberately disconnected.
“And that poses a real risk of amplification of transmission, of case numbers going up quite sharply.”
He added, “In terms of the reproduction value, the ‘R’ value, opening high schools could increase it by as much as a half, but by as little as 0.2 or 0.3, but it will go up.
“Given we’re at ‘R’ equal to one at the moment, clearly we don’t want ‘R’ going up to 1.5 or so, that would… lead to quite rapid growth of the epidemic.”
He added, “Whether, in high schools, FE colleges, it is necessary for children to go back 100% or whether we can have other alternative means of provision, children being in one week and out the other week, therefore reducing contacts in school and outside school, or whether we row back on the relaxation of restrictions in the rest of society to allow schools to be fully opened, for instance social venues, leisure venues, more working from home – those things.
“I mean that really is a policy decision, but I’m just saying, in my view, it is likely that some form of those measures will be necessary to maintain control of transmission.”