The UK government must change its current strategy for tackling COVID-19 or face an inevitable further wave of outbreaks and subsequent lockdowns, a report from an independent group of doctors and scientists has warned.
The report by the Independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) group, set up and chaired by former chief scientific adviser Prof David King, and including leading experts in public health, epidemiology, primary care, virology, mathematical modelling and social and health policy, sets out 19 recommendations to support a gradual release from social distancing measures through a sustainable public health response to COVID-19.
The government should take all necessary measures to control the virus through suppression and not simply manage its spread, the report stresses, saying this will be essential "until the delivery of an effective vaccine with universal uptake."
“The government should refocus its ambition on ensuring sufficient public health and health system capacities to ensure that we can identify, isolate, test and treat all cases, and to trace and quarantine contacts. Quarantine should be for 14 days and not seven,” the report says.
The report says the government must develop a clear quarantine and messaging policy which takes account of the diversity of the UK population, with appropriate quarantine facilities in the community. This should be accompanied by real-time high-quality detailed data about the epidemic in each local authority and ward area.
Outbreak risks must also be minimised in high vulnerability and institutional settings, the report states.
The report has been sent to Downing Street, the head of the government’s official SAGE group, and first ministers in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The Independent SAGE group said it will continue to meet “to consider some of these specific recommendations and to offer constructive solutions to government” on the suppression of the coronavirus.