Wednesday, 30 December 2020

Independent SAGE: Safe re-opening of schools not an option for at least a month Another 100,000 Covid deaths possible by end of June 2021


 This morning's Independent SAGE Briefing


This is part of the statement issued this morning by Independent SAGE.  The full statement is available on their website HERE


With a highly effective vaccine being rolled out, with more vaccines to be approved shortly, it is unconscionable that Covid-19 be allowed to run rampant through our communities just when protection is on the horizon. We urgently need a new plan to control Covid-19 into 2021 and aggressively drive down cases across England. 


Delayed and tentative decision making will result in the deaths of tens of thousands more people. 


Modellers from the SAGE modelling subgroup estimate that even under national Tier 4, another 100,000 people could die before the end of June 2021. In that scenario, hundreds  of thousands others would go on to suffer long term effects from Covid-19 and the NHS would be brought to its knees. The government needs to act now to prevent this catastrophe.  


We strongly urge that  the following strategy be adopted immediately.

  1.  A nationwide lockdown with immediate effect is vitally necessary now. 
  2. Schools contribute to the increasing transmission (R rate). We all want staff and children in schools safely, but sadly that is not an option now for at least a month. The unprecedented crisis requires Government immediately provide digital access for all children, recruiting retired teachers and others to help provide excellent online teaching, enabling children who can’t work from home to attend school along with vulnerable and key worker children. The Government should use January to make schools safe, e.g. extra space from unused buildings to enable 2 metre distancing, free masks and encourage all to wear them, multiple sanitiser stations and support for improved ventilation. There should be an immediate Government taskforce, including teaching unions, local authorities, governing bodies and parents, to implement this plan. 
  3. There must be a clear strategy to mark the end-point of the new lockdown.  This is when the number of new cases has dropped to the point where all those with the disease and in contact with them are isolated, with support where necessary,  from the rest of the population.  A fully operative Find, Test, Trace, Isolate and Support system must be in place through local public health services and the army, which will need appropriate funding.
  4. Meanwhile, an explicit strategy for vaccine rollout is required. Current rates of immunisation, whilst a good start, are insufficient to ensure coverage of priority groups by Easter 2021. The necessary primary-care-led upscale requires new resources and staffing now. Appropriate support and messaging to all communities is required to ensure sufficient uptake to establish population immunity, and minimise death, disease and long-term physical and mental ill-health. 
  5. We must also support and contribute to the rapid roll out of the vaccine to low and middle income countries – the more Covid-19 is allowed to spread, the more opportunities it has to develop new mutations. 
  6. We must institute an effective Covid control strategy at our borders. As in other countries, personal travel, especially international travel, must be monitored and regulated effectively, with advance application for travel to and from the UK, a negative PCR test prior to travel and managed isolation on arrival. 


The lesson should by now have been learnt by the decision makers.  Prompt action will be better for the health of the country and our economy.  Delay can only lead to further rapid growth of this pernicious disease, paralysing our ability to manage it.  



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