'The same mistakes over and over again' - experts react to new lockdown restrictions

Virologists and other scientific experts have warned the new lockdown restrictions may not be as effective as those in March, amid claims the Scottish and UK Governments are making the “same mistakes” over again with measures that do not appear to be working.

A quiet dog walk in Edinburgh City Centre on January 4, 2021 in Edinburgh, Scotland.
A quiet dog walk in Edinburgh City Centre on January 4, 2021 in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Mainland Scotland was placed into national lockdown from midnight on Monday, with people told to stay at home by law.

Schools will be closed for the rest of January, with the situation after that to be reviewed later.

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Existing travel restrictions within Scotland and across the border with England will remain in place.

But some experts said further measures are needed.

"Given the estimates of the transmissibility of the new variant, this lockdown may not be as effective as the one last March. It may be that the best we can hope for is that the situation does not deteriorate further,” said Professor Mark Woolhouse, Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at Edinburgh University.

"We will have a better chance of achieving a better outcome if the government doesn’t just focus on lockdown but puts effort into other measures to control the epidemic.”

Mass testing, support for those required to self-isolate, support for people shielding and surveillance and detection of cases are all vital steps, Professor Woolhouse said.

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Dr Julian W Tang, Honorary Associate Professor/Clinical Virologist at the University of Leicester, accused the UK Government of making the “same mistakes” over and over again, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a comparable lockdown throughout England.

“Just looking at the Worldometer, the UK has been having more daily new COVID-19 cases than all of France, Spain, Italy and Germany combined,” he said.

“It’s amazing that we seem to be making the same mistakes over and over again – with increasing loss of life. The vaccine is probably the only way out of this for the UK, as the various Tiered social distancing measures are clearly not working well enough here.”

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Professor Devi Sridhar, Chair of Public Health at Edinburgh University, said the approach to border restrictions instil “little confidence” in the pandemic strategy.

"The government has spent many months and billions of pounds on its testing-and-tracing strategy. So it’s surprising that, despite these efforts, its approach to visitors arriving from overseas is still so lax,” she wrote in The Guardian .

"Preventing the import of Covid-19 cases and variants requires robust testing and quarantine procedures at our borders. Yet people are allowed in to the UK without a negative Covid test result, and pictures of crowding at airports – in contrast to the carefully planned approach of countries such as South Korea – do little to instil confidence in the safety of this approach.

Police Scotland said on Tuesday that officers will be conducting increased patrols in line with the new lockdown.

Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said: “Our approach throughout the pandemic has not changed. Police Scotland officers will continue to support people to follow the regulations and encourage them to take personal responsibility.

“People should not leave their homes unless for essential purposes. The best way to stay safe is to stay at home.”

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