What is the data that persuaded PM to call third England lockdown?
Written by on 5 January 2021
Boris Johnson put science and data right at the beginning of his address to the nation, to explain why he was about to announce England’s third national lockdown.
The prime minister sought to impress on people the sense of crisis in his televised statement, in a bid to convince everyone to comply with the tough measures and “stay at home” message.
Number of deaths in the UK
Mr Johnson said the number of coronavirus-related deaths is up by 20% over the last week.
And in a slide released by Downing Street after his address, a graph showed deaths have begun rising back towards levels reached during the first peak, with nearly 1,000-a-day reported recently.
Numbers going into hospital in England with COVID
Hospitals are under more pressure from coronavirus than “at any time since the start of the pandemic”, the prime minister warned.
Another slide published by Number 10 also showed the number of people going into hospital with the virus in England is back to the same levels as April 2020.
Numbers in hospital in England with COVID
The previous graph showed how many people are going into hospital daily – but the next revealed the total of those in them.
Mr Johnson referred to it, warning the number of patients in hospital with coronavirus has increased by nearly a third in the last week to 27,000 – a figure 40% higher than the first peak last spring.
Numbers who have tested positive for COVID-19
More than 80,000 people tested positive for the virus across the UK on 29 December – a new record, said Mr Johnson.
This graph reveals the seven-day rolling average of cases dipped during the second national lockdown but then rose to at least double by the end of December.
Alert level raised to highest level yet
Finally, there was also the recommendation taken by the four nations’ chief medical officers to raise the UK’s COVID-19 alert level.
They had cautioned earlier on Monday: “We are not confident that the NHS can handle a further sustained rise in cases and without further action there is a material risk of the NHS in several areas being overwhelmed over the next 21 days.”
Professor Calum Semple, a scientist who sits on the government’s advisory committee known as SAGE, told Sky News the lockdown should help bring cases and deaths back down.
But he added the drastic action was inevitable given the policy to allow those in non-Tier 4 areas to mix socially indoors over Christmas.
While Mr Johnson used science and data to evidence his decision, he has faced accusations of recently ignoring advice from SAGE.
The group of experts warned on 22 December that keeping schools open would mean the R rate – the average number of people someone with coronavirus passes it on to – would remain above 1, meaning the number of cases would continue to grow.
But despite that, Mr Johnson continued to say he wanted schools to remain open – even on Monday morning, the first day back for some and less than 12 hours before he announced they would be closed.