Circuit-breaker lockdown needed before Christmas, expert warns

Stephen Reicher, a professor at the University of St Andrews, said the time to act is now.

Circuit-breaker lockdown needed before Christmas, expert warns Getty Images

A leading Government adviser has said the most effective way to stop the spread of the Omicron variant of coronavirus would be to have a circuit-breaker lockdown before Christmas.

Stephen Reicher, professor of social psychology at the University of St Andrews and member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said it was clear that current measures alone would not be enough to stop the spiralling numbers of cases.

On Friday, Nicola Sturgeon announced Omicron was now the dominant strain of the virus and a “tsunami” was beginning to hit Scotland.

Prof Reicher, who was speaking to Times Radio, said the time to act was now.

He said: “The only way really, or at least the most effective way, we can have an immediate effect is to decrease the number of contacts we have.

“In many ways, the most effective way of diminishing contact is to have a circuit-breaker.

“Now, you could have it after Christmas, the problem is after Christmas it’s probably too late, it’s probably by then we will have had a huge surge of infections with all the impact upon society.

“When people say ‘look, we don’t want to close down’, of course, we don’t want to close down. But the problem is at the moment, things are closing down anyway, because of the spread of infection.

“So I think we need to act now.”

On Friday night, Jason Leitch has indicated the country is “in the foothills” of a massive wave of coronavirus cases sparked by the Omicron variant.

Scotland’s national clinical director warned of a “public health crisis” as he explained that the latest variant is more transmissible than previous ones.

Speaking on the STV News at Six, Leitch expressed sympathy for businesses impacted by people being told to minimise contact with others outside their household.

“This is a public health crisis. We have a fourth new variant, it is accelerating, it is doubling faster than any of its predecessors and it is now more than half of the positive cases in Scotland,” said Leitch.

“So my job, I’m afraid, is to give the best advice I can for that public health crisis.

“Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t have empathy and sympathy for business owners and others, and you heard the First Minister today with those challenges.

“With financial challenges, economic challenges, which are of course also public health challenges.

“I don’t want anybody to lose their business or lose their job. But, this virus is coming.

“It is here, we’re in the foothills of a massive wave probably of this Omicron variant and we don’t fully understand it, so that’s why we’ve got to all be cautious.”

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