Science

UK coronavirus live: PM would have saved thousands of lives with earlier lockdown, says Sage scientist


Good morning. One of the criticisms of Boris Johnson’s handling of coronavirus is that he has been poor at managing expectations. Temperamentally prone to over-optimism, he has constantly been playing down the extent to which lockdown measures will be required – only to find the Covid reality proving him wrong.

We may be getting a fresh example today.

This afternoon Johnson will be making a statement to MPs about the England-wide lockdown announced on Saturday and, according to the extracts released in advance, he will say that deaths would have been twice as bad as during the first wave without one. He will say:


Models of our scientists suggest that unless we act now, we could see deaths over the winter that are twice as bad or more compared with the first wave.

Faced with these latest figures, there is no alternative but to take further action at a national level.

But Johnson will also play down the prospect of the lockdown having to be extended. He will say:


At the end of four weeks, on Wednesday 2 December, we will seek to ease restrictions, going back into the tiered system on a local and regional basis according to the latest data and trends.

This line has made the Daily Express splash.

BBC News (UK)
(@BBCNews)

Monday’s Express: “New lockdown will only last one month, PM vows” #BBCPapers #TomorrowsPapersToday pic.twitter.com/mhm7XHcyxQ


November 1, 2020

But is this credible? Not according to the rest of Fleet Street, which is placing more weight on what Michael Gove said yesterday about how the lockdown might have to be extended, plus what ministers and officials are briefing on background.

Here is the Times splash.

BBC News (UK)
(@BBCNews)

Monday’s Times: “Lockdown could last to next year, ministers warn” #BBCPapers #TomorrowsPapersToday pic.twitter.com/w3yeH5CXOq


November 1, 2020

Here are some quotes from the Times story (paywall), from ministers not inclined to trust the PM’s assurances.


Cabinet ministers told The Times that they believed it would be “very difficult” to end the lockdown if deaths and hospital admissions were still rising.

“There’s a lag to these things,” one said. “The fear will be that in four weeks’ time deaths will be higher than they are now, which will give credibility to people who want to keep national measures in place.”

Another said: “I think it’ll be after the new year. The rate of transmission is not going to go down enough to justify it. Just look at the graphs. It’s going to be a jobs disaster.”

And here are some headlines from other papers flagging up concerns the lockdown will have to be extended.

BBC News (UK)
(@BBCNews)

Monday’s Guardian: “PM faces Tory fury after hints of longer lockdown” #BBCPapers #TomorrowsPapersToday pic.twitter.com/6oveIaUFU5


November 1, 2020

BBC News (UK)
(@BBCNews)

Monday’s Telegraph: “PM raises prospect of lockdown extension” #BBCPapers #TomorrowsPapersToday pic.twitter.com/snvwXRc1fz


November 1, 2020

BBC News (UK)
(@BBCNews)

Monday’s i: “Extended lockdown warning” #BBCPapers #TomorrowsPapersToday pic.twitter.com/ZuD1gx3WnA


November 1, 2020

Johnson will be on his feet in the Commons after 3.30pm and this could turn out to be one of his most awkward parliamentary appearances since the pandemic started. Many Conservative MPs are very unhappy about the lockdown, and it it doubtful whether they will accept his claim that it may only last four weeks. We don’t know yet whether they will vent their anger en masse in the chamber, but if they do, Johnson could face a difficult afternoon.

Here is the agenda for the day.

9.30am: Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, gives a speech at the London Conference 2020.

10.30am: Douglas Ross, the Scottish Conservative leader, gives a speech on the union to Policy Exchange thinktank.

11.40am: Sir Keir Starmer gives a speech to the CBI conference.

12pm: Downing Street is expected to hold its daily lobby briefing.

12.15pm: Mark Drakeford, the Welsh first minister, gives a briefing where he is expected to announce what will happen in Wales when its lockdown ends next week.

12.15pm: Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, holds a coronavirus briefing.

After 3.30pm: Boris Johnson makes a statement to MPs about his plans for an England-wide lockdown.

Politics Live is now doubling up as the UK coronavirus live blog and, given the way the Covid crisis eclipses everything, this will continue for the foreseeable future. But we will be covering non-Covid political stories too, and when they seem more important or more interesting, they will take precedence.

Here is our global coronavirus live blog.

I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.





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