A leading health advisor has warned the UK is facing a ‘Déjà vu’ moment in the pandemic and could risk repeating the mistakes last year that led to a lockdown festive period.
Professor Stephen Reicher from St Andrews University has urged the UK Government to “do something now” to avoid another “dreadful Christmas”.
Prof Reicher, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (SPI-B), which feeds into the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said that without change, there will be a further spike in hospitalisations even with the vaccine.
He told Times Radio: “Sometimes in this pandemic you kind of feel you’re in Groundhog Day.
“It’s been a year since SAGE said we had to take action to stop infections, and the government didn’t. They waited and the watched, and that’s why we had such a dreadful Christmas.”
It’s deja vu all over again:
a year ago to the week, on 21 Sept 2020, SAGE called for action to bring down infections.
They were ignored, infections and hospitalisations went through the roof so hard restrictions were needed – hence the awful Christmas and winter were suffered… pic.twitter.com/mg2obI1gQi
— Stephen Reicher (@ReicherStephen) September 14, 2021
He added: “Now SAGE is saying that if we don’t do something now that not only will there be a spike in infections, but there will be a spike in hospitalisations even with a vaccine, so do something now.
“The government is again saying ‘we’ll watch’ and ‘we’ll wait’, and the more this happens, then the more you have to do later.”
The St Andrews University professor added that he believed the UK government were guilty of shifting the blame on to the public last year and to combat infection rates, people should continue to work from home.
Asked if there was a danger the public would not comply if further restrictions were brought in as part of the UK Government’s winter plan, Prof Reicher told Times Radio that many people were not socialising as much as may be thought.
He added: “Yes, people have started mixing more and the rate at which we mix the number of contacts we have per week has gone up. However, when you look more closely what you find is nearly all of that is due to people mixing at work.
“The problem isn’t that people are choosing to party all the time. The problem is people are given no choice because they are required to go back to work.
“So, I think this notion that the public are the problem – blame the public – is actually the government projecting its failures on the failures of public psychology. It was wrong before. I think it’s wrong now.”
Yesterday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon gave a Covid update, setting out how the Scottish Government aims to deal with the pandemic this winter.
It comes as vaccine passports will be introduced in Scotland for entry into venues with large crowds from October 1. However, on Monday the UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid told the BBC that plans to introduce such passes in England will not go ahead.