Independent SAGE: UK at Crisis Point with 2-3 Weeks to Take Action

THE UK has reached a “crisis point” and needs to take urgent action to bring the virus under control, according to a major new consultation document released by Independent SAGE today. New modelling by neuroscientist Professor Karl Friston of University College London shows that the UK has ‘only two to three weeks’ to improve contact tracing if we are to avoid another national lockdown.

As confirmed cases of COVID-19 double every eight days and hospital admissions increase, Independent SAGE, the group of expert scientists chaired by former Chief Scientific Adviser Sir David King, has set out a ‘10 point emergency plan’.

Professor Karl Friston said: “Modelling shows a simple doubling of efficacy of the test and trace system from 16% to 32% would bend the curve and save about 1000 lives but the time to act is now. An effective strategic response will soon be out of reach as the prevalence of infection rises.”

He called for a “shoe leather” approach to contact tracing, with a redeployment of resources away from call centres to local and experienced public health teams who can find, monitor and support people who have acquired the infection, and their contacts.

Friston added: “This kind of contact tracing can only be done effectively using local knowledge, expertise and detective work. It is not dependent on an overstretched testing infrastructure. Tests are an important adjunct to identifying cases and may be better deployed for the asymptomatic contacts of confirmed cases.”

Other urgent measures proposed by Independent SAGE include the suspension of indoor service in pubs and restaurants, indoor socialising limited to bubbles of three households and people continuing to work from home where possible. Schools must be funded to allow smaller, socially-distanced classes and to enable them to provide digital resources for pupils who have to stay home. The committee also called for an emergency fund to support those needing to shield or self-isolate.

The recommendations were welcomed by Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary Jonathan Ashworth who attended the live-streamed consultation. “I’m here in Leicester where we have a huge number in precarious work and high levels of child poverty and the idea that people can isolate for two weeks without financial support is for the birds.”

He added: “Put public health in control. Put our NHS labs in control. Invest in public health infrastructure. Invest in our National Health Service. Don’t waste money on these big outsourcing companies who have got no experience of this and who are making a complete mess of it.”

Sir David King, chair of Independent SAGE said: “We have never been in control of tracking the virus and now it’s got completely out of hand. If we sit on our hands for a couple of weeks it will be way beyond our ability to handle it without a lockdown.”

consultation document and says: “the idea that people can self-isolate for two weeks without financial support is for the birds.”

THE UK has reached a “crisis point” and needs to take urgent action to bring the virus under control, according to a major new consultation document released by Independent SAGE today. New modelling by neuroscientist Professor Karl Friston of University College London shows that the UK has ‘only two to three weeks’ to improve contact tracing if we are to avoid another national lockdown.

As confirmed cases of COVID-19 double every eight days and hospital admissions increase, Independent SAGE, the group of expert scientists chaired by former Chief Scientific Adviser Sir David King, has set out a ‘10 point emergency plan’.

Professor Karl Friston said: “Modelling shows a simple doubling of efficacy of the test and trace system from 16% to 32% would bend the curve and save about 1000 lives but the time to act is now. An effective strategic response will soon be out of reach as the prevalence of infection rises.”

He called for a “shoe leather” approach to contact tracing, with a redeployment of resources away from call centres to local and experienced public health teams who can find, monitor and support people who have acquired the infection, and their contacts.

Friston added: “This kind of contact tracing can only be done effectively using local knowledge, expertise and detective work. It is not dependent on an overstretched testing infrastructure. Tests are an important adjunct to identifying cases and may be better deployed for the asymptomatic contacts of confirmed cases.”

Other urgent measures proposed by Independent SAGE include the suspension of indoor service in pubs and restaurants, indoor socialising limited to bubbles of three households and people continuing to work from home where possible. Schools must be funded to allow smaller, socially-distanced classes and to enable them to provide digital resources for pupils who have to stay home. The committee also called for an emergency fund to support those needing to shield or self-isolate.

The recommendations were welcomed by Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary Jonathan Ashworth who attended the live-streamed consultation. “I’m here in Leicester where we have a huge number in precarious work and high levels of child poverty and the idea that people can isolate for two weeks without financial support is for the birds.”

He added: “Put public health in control. Put our NHS labs in control. Invest in public health infrastructure. Invest in our National Health Service. Don’t waste money on these big outsourcing companies who have got no experience of this and who are making a complete mess of it.”

Sir David King, chair of Independent SAGE said: “We have never been in control of tracking the virus and now it’s got completely out of hand. If we sit on our hands for a couple of weeks it will be way beyond our ability to handle it without a lockdown.”