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Government adviser says UK has 'painted itself into a corner' in its attempts to tackle coronavirus outbreak

Brits have been urged to stay at home to ease pressure on the NHS.

2 min read

The UK may have “painted itself into a corner” with no way out of the coronavirus lockdown, a senior government adviser has said.

Professor Graham Medley, who sits on the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), told The Times that ministers must consider the potential social problems like unemployment and mental ill health caused by the lockdown when deciding its exit strategy.

It is nearly two weeks since Boris Johnson told the public to stay indoors and avoid unnecessary social contact in a bid to halt the spread of the virus.

However, Professor Medley, who chairs the SAGE committee that oversees mathematical models for the Government, said: “This disease is so nasty that we had to suppress it completely. Then we’ve kind of painted ourselves into a corner, because then the question will be what do we do now? 

“We will have done three weeks of this lockdown so there’s a big decision coming up on 13 April. In broad terms are we going to continue to harm children to protect vulnerable people, or not?”

The professor of infectious disease modelling at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine told The Times the social impact of the lockdown was “increasingly being considered” by advisers.

He said: "The measures to control [the disease] cause harm. The principal one is economic, and I don’t mean to the economy generally, I mean to the incomes of people who rely on a continuous stream of money and their children, particularly the school closure aspect .

"There will also be actual harms in terms of mental health, in terms of domestic violence and child abuse, and in terms of food poverty.”

And he warned: "If we carry on with lockdown it buys us more time, we can get more thought put into it, but it doesn’t resolve anything - it’s a placeholder.”

Professor Medley’s warnings about the social toll of the lockdown come after claims for welfare help soared, amid fears that the closure of vast swathes of the economy will plunge the UK into a deep recession.

Figures released by the Department for Work and Pensions this month show that 950,000 successful applications were made between 16 March and the end of the month.

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Connecting Communities is an initiative aimed at empowering and strengthening community ties across the UK. Launched in partnership with The National Lottery, it aims to promote dialogue and support Parliamentarians working to nurture a more connected society.

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