Analysis – It’s clear government experts support tougher coronavirus measures
By Sam Coates, deputy political editor
on the latest coronavirus data had two aims.
The first was to
jolt the public into understanding the seriousness of the situation facing the
country from the pandemic.
Deputy CMO Jonathan Van-Tam wants to press a reset button when
it comes to public attitudes, insofar as that is possible, by warning of a “marked
pickup” of cases ahead of the announcements on restrictions through the
The second aim
of the briefing was to put pressure on local politicians negotiating with the government on new restrictions, by stressing the problem in the worst affected
areas. The graphs showing hospital admissions in Liverpool, Manchester, South
Tyneside, Sheffield, Newcastle, Leeds, and the Wirral were stark.
point of the briefing came from the medical director of NHS England Professor
Stephen Powis who said there were now more patients in hospital with
coronavirus than there were when the government ordered the lockdown in March.
On 23 March, the day lockdown was imposed, there was 3,097. Over the weekend,
the number rose to 3,451. It is a point deliberately intended to shock.
It is clear that Professor Van-Tam and others support tougher measures, and fast.
Specifically, he made
clear he has little time for the argument put forward by Manchester Labour MPs
and some northern Tory MPs that the hospitality industry could be unnecessarily
sacrificed in a second lockdown.
Professor Van-Tam – possibly the most trusted medical
figure of all government scientists – rebuffed this, saying coronavirus
“thrives on human contact” in closed spaces, crowded spaces, and where there is
prolonged close contact and lots of noise. “There is increasing evidence (of
transmission) where there is shouting and singing.”
In recent days,
the political consensus around coronavirus measures has frayed like never
before. Boris Johnson will hope that moments like this morning help to build it
back, and will find out in the Commons later this week whether he has succeeded
in the event the various developments are put to a vote.