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Loved ones ‘will catch Covid and die’ if families allowed to mix at Christmas, says professor

Professor Neil Ferguson has warned that loved ones ‘will catch Covid-19 and die’ if families are allowed to mix on Christmas Day, as doctors predict that mass cancellations for routine operations are ‘inevitable’ this winter.

The scientist, whose modelling led to the original lockdown in March, said schools may have to be closed to older pupils if restrictions on households mixing fail to stem the rise of coronavirus infections.

He said it will be a ‘political judgement’ as to whether regulations are relaxed over the festive season, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: ‘It risks some transmission and there will be consequences of that. Some people will die because of getting infected on that day.

‘But if it is only one or two days the impact is likely to be limited. So that is really a political judgment about the cost versus the benefits.’ 

It follows the prospects for a family Christmas descending into further confusion yesterday, as Downing Street insisted that relatives should be able to gather – but a minister warned it will not be ‘normal’.

Professor Ferguson added: ‘That (banning households mixing) should have a significant effect but as yet we have been unable to see it definitively.

‘If we go beyond that there is a limit to what we can do in terms of reducing contacts, short of starting to target, for instance, the older years in schools and sixth form colleges where we know older teenagers are able to transmit as adults.

‘Of course nobody wants to start moving to virtual education and closing schools even partially. The challenge may be that we are not able to get on top of the transmission otherwise.’ 

In other coronavirus news: 

  • Police revealed plans to patrol the Anglo-Welsh border to stop families from crossing over for a half-term holiday as Wales is plunged into a two-week ‘firebreak’ lockdown;
  • The mayor of Sheffield City Region said he ‘won’t hesitate to ask the government for more cash’ after ‘tough negotiations’ secured the area £41million; 
  • The psychological fallout from the pandemic will cause birth rates to drop, people to stay single for longer and women to sexualise themselves more, experts predict;
  • Scientific advisers have been warned the coronavirus is mutating and could become more infectious, according to SAGE papers; 
  • Chancellor Rishi Sunak has been banned from a pub and restaurant in his constituency because he voted against an extension of free school meals; 
  • A London firm is paid up to £7,000 a day by the taxpayer to run the failing NHS Test and Trace; 
  • Only one in ten stay at home for two weeks after being told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace, Sage documents reveal. 

Professor Neil Ferguson said it will be a ‘political judgement’ as to whether regulations on households mixing are relaxed over the festive season. Pictured: a shopper in Wrexham last night as the 6pm ‘fire break’ lockdown approached

Doctors have warned that the mass cancellation of routine operations is 'inevitable'. The BMA's Dr Rob Harwood said NHS trusts will have 'no choice' but to limit planned treatments for patients as they approach winter

Doctors have warned that the mass cancellation of routine operations is ‘inevitable’. The BMA’s Dr Rob Harwood said NHS trusts will have ‘no choice’ but to limit planned treatments for patients as they approach winter

Professor Ferguson said schools may have to be closed to older pupils if restrictions on households mixing fail to stem the rise of coronavirus infections (pictured: an empty classroom at Manor Park School and Nursery in Cheshire)

Professor Ferguson said schools may have to be closed to older pupils if restrictions on households mixing fail to stem the rise of coronavirus infections (pictured: an empty classroom at Manor Park School and Nursery in Cheshire)

Meanwhile Dr Nick Scriven, former president of the Society for Acute Medicine, warned last night that cancellations would be ‘inevitable’ across large areas of the health service.

He said: ‘I feel it is unrealistic to expect trusts across the country to meet the set elective targets in the current climate.’

The scientist (above), whose modelling led to the original lockdown in March, said of regulations being relaxed: 'Some people will die because of getting infected on that day'

The scientist (above), whose modelling led to the original lockdown in March, said of regulations being relaxed: ‘Some people will die because of getting infected on that day’

NHS trusts in Chesterfield, Northampton, Newcastle and Nottingham confirmed yesterday that they were postponing at least some non-urgent activity, while Rotherham, Liverpool, Bradford and Plymouth have announced similar actions in the last week.  

Dr Rob Harwood, the chair of the British Medical Association’s (BMA) hospital consultants committee, said trusts will have ‘no choice’ but to limit planned treatments for patients.

He told The Guardian: ‘As we approach winter, it’s likely that many trusts will have no choice but to continue to restrict their elective care services, which is incredibly worrying for both staff and patients, as backlogs increase and health conditions potentially worsen.’

Speaking on operations being cancelled, Dr Nick Scriven, the former president of the Society for Acute Medicine and a consultant physician, added: ‘I think this is going to be inevitable across large areas of the health service as the pandemic and winter coincide. 

‘We know bed numbers are low compared with other countries and with the necessary infection control processes the ‘functioning’ of what we have is slowed down across the board.’

Emily Robertshaw spoke about the difficulties her 14-year-old son will have to face after his life-changing cochlear implant surgery was delayed.

The mother told Channel 4 News: ‘I have yet to actually to break the news to him and he’s back later, and it’s going to be really difficult. He’s had to have a lot of support building up to the operation. 

‘He’s got significant learning disabilities so the preparation has been huge.’  

Emily Robertshaw pictured with her 14-year-old son, whose life-changing cochlear implant surgery was delayed. The mother earlier said: 'I have yet to actually to break the news to him and he's back later, and it's going to be really difficult'

Emily Robertshaw pictured with her 14-year-old son, whose life-changing cochlear implant surgery was delayed. The mother earlier said: ‘I have yet to actually to break the news to him and he’s back later, and it’s going to be really difficult’

Normal Christmas is ‘wishful thinking’, says SAGE adviser 

The idea that ‘we can carry on as we are’ and have a normal Christmas ‘is wishful thinking in the extreme’, a Government scientific adviser has said.

Professor John Edmunds, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said ‘radical action’ would be needed to stem the rise in coronavirus cases, particularly in regions with high incidence of the virus.

Prof Edmunds, who told MPs on Wednesday that tens of thousands of deaths could occur during this wave of the pandemic, said further measures are needed to bring cases down.

He said that a circuit-breaker is needed across the whole country or at least in areas where incidence is high.

‘The only way that we can have a relatively safe and normal Christmas is if we take radical action now to reduce incidence – at the very least in high incidence areas – and keep the incidence low across the country by implementing a package of measures to reduce social contacts,’ he said.

‘The notion that we can carry on as we are and have a Christmas that we can celebrate normally with friends and family is wishful thinking in the extreme.’

Professor Ferguson also warned that the NHS will be unable to cope if coronavirus cases continue to increase at the present rate, saying that while infections among 18 to 21-year-olds were falling, they were continuing to rise in other age groups.

He explained: ‘Unfortunately, in every other age group case numbers continue to rise at about the same rate they were. 

‘There are little hints of slowing, for instance in the North East of England, but we are not seeing the sort of slowing that we really need to to get on top of this. 

‘It is a worrying situation. We now have 8,000 people in hospital with Covid. That is about a third of the level we were at the peak of the pandemic in March.

‘If the rate of growth continues as it is, it means that in a month’s time we will above that peak level in March and that is probably unsustainable.

‘We are in a critical time right now. The health system will not be able to cope with this rate of growth for much longer.’ 

Professor John Edmunds, a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) and from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, has said his own group was looking at how interventions might work over the winter, but these had not been requested by the Government.

Of Sage, he said: ‘We haven’t specifically been asked to look at different policies quite honestly, so nobody’s asking us to say ‘well what should we do here?’

‘So these are things that we’ve really taken on ourselves and decided to look at ourselves.’

Sage documents revealed yesterday that only one in ten of people stay at home for two weeks when they are told to self-isolate. 

Out of those who were told they had been in close contact with a confirmed Covid-19 case, just 10.9 per cent isolated for the following 14 days.  

Government scientists claimed the crucial R rate has dropped slightly and an array of statistics revealed cases are no longer growing as quickly as they once were, although the epidemic is still growing (pictured: Boris Johnson in London yesterday)

Government scientists claimed the crucial R rate has dropped slightly and an array of statistics revealed cases are no longer growing as quickly as they once were, although the epidemic is still growing (pictured: Boris Johnson in London yesterday)

Britain's chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, Mr Johnson and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak take part in a coronavirus briefing on Thursday. The UK yesterday announced 20,530 more coronavirus cases

Britain’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, Mr Johnson and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak take part in a coronavirus briefing on Thursday. The UK yesterday announced 20,530 more coronavirus cases

Christmas chaos as No10 says families CAN gather this year but minister warns it won’t be ‘normal’ 

The prospects for a family Christmas descended further into confusion yesterday as Downing Street insisted families should be able to gather – but a minister warned it will not be ‘normal’.

The mixed messages came as politicians desperately try to get a grip on a surge in coronavirus cases – with lockdowns tightening in many areas.

There are tough restrictions on people meeting indoors across much of the UK, but asked whether families should abandon hope of meeting up, a No10 spokesman said: ‘The PM has been clear previously that he is hopeful that in many ways we could be able to get some aspects of our lives back to normal by Christmas.

‘As I say, we’ve been clear about the ambition to ensure that people may celebrate Christmas as a family this year.’

The comments contrasted with the stance taken by Treasury Chief Secretary Steve Barclay in a round of interviews yesterday morning.

He said: ‘I think few people expect it to be exactly as it would normally because we will be living with this virus for some time.’ 

The study, carried out by King’s College London, was discussed at their meeting in September.

Researchers collected data from a sample of 31,000 people between March 2 and August 5.

Based on answers to an online questionnaire, the team found that only one in ten said they had isolated for two weeks when told to by the Test and Trace scheme.

This is much lower than the 65 per cent who said they intended to quarantine if they received the alert.

There are tough restrictions on people meeting indoors across much of the UK, but asked whether families should abandon hope of meeting up, a No10 spokesman previously said: ‘The PM has been clear previously that he is hopeful that in many ways we could be able to get some aspects of our lives back to normal by Christmas. 

‘As I say, we’ve been clear about the ambition to ensure that people may celebrate Christmas as a family this year.’

The comments contrasted with the stance taken by Treasury Chief Secretary Steve Barclay in a round of interviews on Friday morning. 

He said: ‘I think few people expect it to be exactly as it would normally because we will be living with this virus for some time.

‘And the chief medical officer and the chief scientific adviser have been very clear on that.

‘But, your point really was about the ability of families to spend Christmas together – that is something we all hope to be in a position to do.’

A Government scientific adviser has said the idea that ‘we can carry on as we are’ and have a normal Christmas ‘is wishful thinking in the extreme’.

Professor John Edmunds, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said ‘radical action’ would be needed to stem the rise in coronavirus cases, particularly in regions with high incidence of the virus.

Data reveals hospitalised Covid-19 patients are dying quicker than they were before - in a week, rather than two. Pictured is a timescale of when men aged between 40-49 (top) 50-59 (middle) and 60-69 (bottom) die after symptoms start (bottom axis is days since symptoms started). The orange is the first wave, and the blue is the second wave

Data reveals hospitalised Covid-19 patients are dying quicker than they were before – in a week, rather than two. Pictured is a timescale of when men aged between 40-49 (top) 50-59 (middle) and 60-69 (bottom) die after symptoms start (bottom axis is days since symptoms started). The orange is the first wave, and the blue is the second wave

PHE data shows the number of cases per 100,000 people in the worst hit regions appeared to turn and start falling in the week up to October 11 after at least five weeks of continuous increases. London has had considerably lower infection rates

PHE data shows the number of cases per 100,000 people in the worst hit regions appeared to turn and start falling in the week up to October 11 after at least five weeks of continuous increases. London has had considerably lower infection rates

Second Tory MP stokes free school meals fury

Two Tory MPs have landed themselves in hot water after controversial remarks about free school meals.

Selaine Saxby hinted in a Facebook post hospitality firms dishing out food should not get government help despite being battered by the pandemic.

Meanwhile Ben Bradley was accused of a ‘stigmatisation of working class families’ in an incendiary tweet that suggested cash went to ‘crack dens and brothels’.

Both MPs have been roundly criticised, with Mr Bradley called to apologise while some said Ms Saxby should resign.

It comes as civil society minister Baroness Barran defended the decision not to extend free school meals through the school holidays.

In a show of unity, hospitality businesses and councils turned their backs on the government and said they will provide free meal vouchers through the break.

The move followed a high-profile campaign by Manchester United and England footballer Marcus Rashford, who was made an MBE for his efforts earlier this month.

Prof Edmunds, who told MPs on Wednesday that tens of thousands of deaths could occur during this wave of the pandemic, said further measures are needed to bring cases down.

He said that a circuit-breaker is needed across the whole country or at least in areas where incidence is high.

‘The only way that we can have a relatively safe and normal Christmas is if we take radical action now to reduce incidence – at the very least in high incidence areas – and keep the incidence low across the country by implementing a package of measures to reduce social contacts,’ he said.

‘The notion that we can carry on as we are and have a Christmas that we can celebrate normally with friends and family is wishful thinking in the extreme.’

Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds has said the only way to save the festive season was to impose a ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown now – something Labour has been demanding.

She told BBC Breakfast: ‘The tier system so far has not worked to reduce infections.

‘What we are looking at unfortunately – given the Government doesn’t seem to be willing to shift on this when half-term holidays are coming up – what we are looking up to Christmas is an increasingly difficult situation in lots of parts of the country.’

Meanwhile, two Tory MPs have landed themselves in hot water after controversial remarks about free school meals.

Selaine Saxby hinted in a Facebook post hospitality firms dishing out food should not get government help despite being battered by the pandemic.

Ben Bradley was accused of a ‘stigmatisation of working class families’ in an incendiary tweet that suggested cash went to ‘crack dens and brothels’.

Selaine Saxby (pictured) hinted in a Facebook post hospitality firms dishing out food should not get government help despite being battered by the pandemic

Ben Bradley (pictured) was accused of a 'stigmatisation of working class families' in an incendiary tweet that suggested cash went to 'crack dens and brothels'.

Selaine Saxby (left) hinted in a Facebook post hospitality firms dishing out food should not get government help despite being battered by the pandemic. Ben Bradley (right) was accused of a ‘stigmatisation of working class families’ in an incendiary tweet that suggested cash went to ‘crack dens and brothels’

Cafes, pubs and restaurants are offering free school meals for local children during half term after MPs rejected Marcus Rashford's campaign (pictured at FareShare in Manchester)

Cafes, pubs and restaurants are offering free school meals for local children during half term after MPs rejected Marcus Rashford’s campaign (pictured at FareShare in Manchester)

Only one in ten stay at home for two weeks when told to self isolate, Sage documents reveal

Only one in ten stay at home for two weeks after being told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace, Sage documents have revealed.

Of those who were told they had been in close contact with a confirmed Covid-19 case, just 10.9 per cent isolated for the following 14 days.

The alarming figures undermine the premise of the Test and Trace system, which aims to prevent the spread of the virus.

The main reasons people gave for not properly quarantining were not developing symptoms, not thinking it was necessary to stay away from those outside the household, or popping to the shops for food.

The figures were revealed in documents by Sage – the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies.

The study, carried out by King’s College London, was discussed at their meeting in September.

Researchers collected data from a sample of 31,000 people between March 2 and August 5.

Based on answers to an online questionnaire, the team found that only one in ten said they had isolated for two weeks when told to by the Test and Trace scheme.

This is much lower than the 65 per cent who said they intended to quarantine if they received the alert.

Both MPs have been roundly criticised, with Mr Bradley called to apologise while some said Ms Saxby should resign.

It comes as civil society minister Baroness Barran defended the decision not to extend free school meals through the school holidays.

In a show of unity, hospitality businesses and councils turned their backs on the government and said they will provide free meal vouchers through the break.

The move followed a high-profile campaign by Manchester United and England footballer Marcus Rashford, who was made an MBE for his efforts earlier this month.

Greater Manchester moved into the highest alert level, Tier 3, on Friday morning, and Wales introduced its two-week ‘firebreak’ lockdown at 6pm last night. 

Coventry, Stoke and Slough entered Tier 2 today, while talks between Westminster and civic leaders in Nottingham over possible Tier 3 restrictions were continuing yesterday. 

The UK yesterday announced 20,530 more coronavirus cases and the deaths of 224 people but official data suggests the country’s outbreak may finally be slowing down.

Positive tests are up 31 per cent on last Friday, when there were 15,650, and deaths have surged by 65 per cent in a week.

But Government scientists claimed the crucial R rate has dropped slightly and an array of statistics revealed cases are no longer growing as quickly as they once were, although the epidemic is still growing.

SAGE estimates the reproduction rate for the UK has fallen for the first time in a month, from between 1.3-1.5 to 1.2-1.4. The number – the key measure at the heart of Number 10’s plan to control the virus – must stay below one, or the outbreak will continue to grow.

Scientific advisers have also been warned that the coronavirus is mutating and could become more infectious, according to SAGE papers.

The New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) said the UK did not have the capability to research these mutations in depth and whether they would be harmful.

It’s one of a number of papers released by the Government yesterday that give an insight into how scientists are steering the pandemic.

Only one in ten stay at home for two weeks after being told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace, Sage documents have revealed. The alarming figures undermine the premise of the Test and Trace system (file photo)

Only one in ten stay at home for two weeks after being told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace, Sage documents have revealed. The alarming figures undermine the premise of the Test and Trace system (file photo)

The main reasons people gave for not properly quarantining were not developing symptoms, not thinking it was necessary to stay away from those outside the household, or popping to the shops for food (file photo)

The main reasons people gave for not properly quarantining were not developing symptoms, not thinking it was necessary to stay away from those outside the household, or popping to the shops for food (file photo)

The SAGE files: Papers presented to Government claim Covid-19 is mutating

Scientific advisers have been warned that the coronavirus is mutating and could become more infectious, according to SAGE papers.

The New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) said the UK did not have the capability to research these mutations in depth and whether they would be harmful.

It’s one of a number of papers released by the Government yesterday that give an insight into how scientists are steering the pandemic.

The idea was explored in a scientific report handed to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), which then presents the findings to the Government to help inform public health policy.

Another document shows how scientists have found that London has so far avoided a ‘second wave’ on the scale of those happening in other major cities in England, such as Liverpool and Manchester.

Experts speculate this is because more of the capital’s population has some form of immunity to the coronavirus after having it already, compared to the North West, which did not have infections as high as London in the first wave.

The idea was explored in a scientific report handed to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), which then presents the findings to the Government to help inform public health policy.

Another document shows how scientists have found that London has so far avoided a ‘second wave’ on the scale of those happening in other major cities in England, such as Liverpool and Manchester.

Experts speculate this is because more of the capital’s population has some form of immunity to the coronavirus after having it already, compared to the North West, which did not have infections as high as London in the first wave.

Government research, supported by Imperial College London, reveals that in the capital, there are twice the number of people with antibodies than the national average (13 per cent), while the South West has the lowest (three per cent).

This has given them some form of immunity to catching the coronavirus again, or at least being protected from anything other than mild disease, it is thought.

The number of people admitted to hospital in London over the last week was 464 — roughly twice as high as at the beginning of the month. But this is well behind the peak of the first wave, when 883 people were admitted to hospital in a single day in March, analysis by the Evening Standard revealed.

In a meeting on September 10, before the rule of six or tiered lockdown was implemented to control the rapid increase in cases, scientists discussed the current state of the crisis.

The minutes read: ‘Major cities, excluding London, appear to be experiencing faster increases in transmission than other areas.

‘Though there remains variability between areas, it is almost certain that R is greater than 1 across large parts of England.

‘This suggests that the epidemic is moving from being concentrated in local outbreaks to more widespread transmission.’

MANCHESTER TO REOPEN NIGHTINGALE HOSPITAL

The NHS Nightingale Hospital in Manchester will reopen in the next week as the city heads into a local lockdown.

A local NHS boss today announced the temporary hospital, set up in the Manchester Central Conference Centre, will be brought back into use before the end of next week. It will become the first one in England to reopen.

It had closed in June when the first wave of the UK’s outbreak burned out, but there are now fears that local hospitals will be inundated with Covid patients again.

The Nightingale will not be used to treat people seriously ill with coronavirus but instead opened to add capacity for ‘additional rehabilitation’.

The NHS Nightingale for the North West was mothballed in June when the last coronavirus patient from the UK's first wave was discharged. Local health bosses say it will reopen by the end of next week

The NHS Nightingale for the North West was mothballed in June when the last coronavirus patient from the UK’s first wave was discharged. Local health bosses say it will reopen by the end of next week

The city is entering Tier Three lockdown rules from midnight on Friday after a week of wrangling between the Government and the mayor, Andy Burnham, because the city has one of the highest infection rates in England.

In an announcement this morning, Professor Jane Eddleston, the boss of the Manchester University NHS Trust, confirmed the Nightingale would reopen.

‘We will be opening the Nightingale, we expect that to be towards the end of next week,’ she said.

‘The Nightingale will not be used as a critical care facility and neither was it in the first phase, it will be used as a facility for patients to have additional rehabilitation.’

Professor Eddleston said there are around 95 people in intensive care beds with Covid-19 in the city, which is slightly more than a third of the 260 at the peak of the epidemic in April.

Despite decreases in coronavirus case numbers the NHS has had to provide beds for patients with the disease throughout the summer, she said. The health service in the area has set up Covid-free zones so it can carry on treating other patients.

Revolt brewing against lockdown rules: Focus group reveals voters are despairing of Boris Johnson’s coronavirus policies and are prepared to break the rules to visit loved ones

By Simon Walters for the Daily Mail

Dramatic evidence of a growing revolt against the coronavirus lockdowns emerged last night.

The public think the rules won’t work, they will break the law if necessary to see their loved ones and believe it is time to ‘get Britain back to normal’.

These are among the key findings from focus groups that suggest traditional opinion polls have failed to spot a decisive change in attitudes toward the pandemic.

One leading pollster believes Britain could be witnessing a repeat of what happened in the 2015 election and the EU referendum.

Opinion polls forecast Labour’s Ed Miliband would be prime minister and that Brexit would be rejected: focus groups indicated the opposite and were proved right each time.

Since the start of the pandemic most polls have suggested voters support lockdowns and, if anything, want the Government to impose even more stringent curbs.

Some have argued this is because furloughed workers have been able to stay at home on 80 per cent of their normal wages thanks to taxpayer funds.

Many Tory MPs opposed to Boris Johnson’s three-tier lockdown system claim their stance is backed by many of their constituents.

The Daily Mail listened in to one of the focus groups, typical of several that have been conducted recently, and it echoed the MPs’ views.

Carried out last Friday, and comprising a cross-section of society, both Tory and Labour, in London, Birmingham and Liverpool, it appears to show voters have lost faith in lockdowns and are no longer prepared to obey all the rules.

They also think the second wave of the virus will be less dangerous, are increasingly worried about the damage to jobs and the economy.

Meanwhile many will refuse a coronavirus vaccine for fear of side effects and there is continuing fury over rule breakers such as the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Dominic Cummings.

People are pictured leaving Cardiff city centre as the pubs close before Wales entered a two-week 'firebreak' lockdown at 6pm on Friday

People are pictured leaving Cardiff city centre as the pubs close before Wales entered a two-week ‘firebreak’ lockdown at 6pm on Friday

A couple wearing a visor and a mask to fend off the coronavirus go shopping in Knighton, a town that sits on the border between England and Wales, earlier this week

A couple wearing a visor and a mask to fend off the coronavirus go shopping in Knighton, a town that sits on the border between England and Wales, earlier this week

Revellers in Sheffield are out on the town for one last night tonight before their city is placed under the strictest lockdown measures, tier three

Revellers in Sheffield are out on the town for one last night tonight before their city is placed under the strictest lockdown measures, tier three 

James Johnson of JL Partners, who acted as moderator in the focus group, says the findings were the same as those in similar studies he had hosted.

He said the results had convinced him the tide of opinion was turning against lockdowns. 

He said that ‘nuanced conversations’ that take place in focus groups, which involve only a handful of people, have ‘uncovered hidden truths’ about the pandemic and attitudes to the Government’s lockdown strategy.

Mr Johnson, who advised Theresa May in Downing Street, argues that the focus groups show a resolve to rely on common sense to avoid catching the virus rather than Government diktats.

Voters are ‘fatigued’ by the curbs and not prepared to carry on being compliant, especially when they see high-profile figures flouting them.

The public, he said, were confused by the rules and were as likely to watch comedian Matt Lucas parody Boris Johnson’s stuttering Downing Street press conferences as watch the Prime Minister himself.

Mr Johnson says that on certain issues the intimate atmosphere of his focus groups enables participants to reveal their true feelings.

This is in contrast to box ticking opinion polls where around 1,000 voters are invited to give a flat yes or no answer to dozens of questions, usually online.

Police officers arriving in Cardiff city centre at 1745 before Wales will enter a two-week "firebreak" lockdown at 6pm on Friday in an attempt to protect the country's NHS from being overwhelmed by the resurgence of coronavirus

Police officers arriving in Cardiff city centre at 1745 before Wales will enter a two-week ‘firebreak’ lockdown at 6pm on Friday in an attempt to protect the country’s NHS from being overwhelmed by the resurgence of coronavirus

People are pictured drinking in Soho, London this evening. A focus group has revealed that people are losing faith in lockdowns and are less willing to obey the rules

People are pictured drinking in Soho, London this evening. A focus group has revealed that people are losing faith in lockdowns and are less willing to obey the rules  

In his most recent focus group, Liverpool pensioner Brian complained: ‘People with cancer, heart conditions, strokes, they’re all dying.

‘We are saving people with coronavirus but the rest of the population is dying from diseases we can control.’

The public knew lockdowns would ‘always break down’, he told the group.

Angela, 59, from Birmingham, said she went months without seeing her elderly parents earlier in the year and ‘I’m not doing that again’.

Paul, a London property developer, ridiculed the 10pm curfew, saying the virus was ‘just spread among crowds getting wasted in the streets.’

Steph, a charity worker, was equally robust, despite having had the virus herself.

She said Mr Cummings was ‘disgusting’ for breaking Covid rules, adding: ‘We have to get back to normality.’

Publicly, the Government is maintaining its tough stance on lockdowns, insisting the rules are vital to stop the virus spiralling out of control.

However, privately, the Government’s position is a different story: like the focus groups, it is rather more nuanced.

The Daily Mail understands ministers are encouraged by signs that predictions of hundreds of thousands more infections and tens of thousands more deaths in a second wave may be an overestimate.

According to reliable sources, there are signs that the infection rate among university students is falling.

And there is evidence the virus has lost up to 90 per cent of its lethal potency owing to mass wearing of masks.

That, together with more effective drugs, has reduced the fatality rate in hospital intensive care units.

‘Let’s get back to normal!’: Thoughts and feelings of an exasperated public

Q: What do you think of Government’s coronavirus rules?

Alec, 61, consultant, London, Conservative

They are confusing, unenforceable and people won’t take any notice of them.

Brian, 68, retired, Liverpool, Conservative

One member of the focus group said that the government's special adviser Dominic Cummings, pictured right, was 'disgusting' for having broken the rules

One member of the focus group said that the government’s special adviser Dominic Cummings, pictured right, was ‘disgusting’ for having broken the rules  

It’s killing more people with cancer. Coronavirus is 40th on the list (of causes of death). People with heart conditions, strokes are all dying. We are saving people with coronavirus but the rest are dying from diseases we can control.

Amira, (female) 30, school admin officer, London, Labour

They don’t (match) the statistics.

Paul, 48, property developer, Birmingham, Conservative

They are patronising and unjust.

Daniel, 24, student, London, Conservative

Confusing; people in government wouldn’t stick to them.

Q: Will rules work?

Paul

No. The virus has no limit on time, race, gender. [The authorities] think it will go away at ten o’clock when pubs shut, but it’s just spread among crowds getting wasted in the streets.

Brian

You can suppress it for a while but it’ll always break out again.

Steph, 38, charity worker, Liverpool, Labour

We (already) tried lockdown, we have to get back to normality, how is a second lockdown going to be any different?

Q: Will you follow new rules?

Amira

No. I’m very close to my family. I didn’t see them for six months in lockdown, I’m not doing it again.

Brian

We all followed the rules initially because we thought right, we’ve got to get rid of this virus. We’ve gone through all the pain of lockdown, now they want us to face another one. The consensus is they (the public) know it’s not going to work, it’s always going to break down.

Howard, 23, engineer, Liverpool

If you need to see your loved ones, see them. If you’re popping round for the sake of it – don’t.

Angela, 59, Birmingham, Labour

I wear a mask when I go out but I shall still see my family because my parents are elderly. I had a few months of not seeing them … and I’m not doing that again. Everything else I’m going to act normal because mentally I couldn’t go through it again.

Daniel

I would break it (lockdown) to see my family – for my mental health.

Paul

Not really. If you need to see your loved ones, see them.

Q: What should MINISTERS do instead?

Angela

Get on with it and be sensible, don’t mix in big crowds. Get back to normal as much as we can.

Daniel

There should be a lockdown with very harsh penalties… for a short time. Then we could remove the virus and live how we want to.

Q: Why has trust in the rules collapsed?

Paul

If the Queen won’t wear a mask, why should I bother?

Steph

Dominic Cummings’ (behaviour) was disgusting, Matt Hancock put his arm round fellow MPs in the Commons.

Paul

You have Cummings on a jolly, the woman (MP) who went from Scotland to London and back with the virus and isn’t being prosecuted. It’s a cop out. And they want to fine us!

Brian

The Mail said the average age of a Covid person dying is 82 years, the average life expectancy is 81 years, so who are we protecting? There’s good chance I would survive at 68.

Q: Would you have a Covid vaccine?

Angela

I don’t believe in vaccines, wouldn’t have one.

Paul

What happens if they bring one out that hasn’t been trialled, and in five years we’ve all developed side effects? We’ll all sue the Government because we were forced to have it.

Alec

I will take it because it will be a worldwide vaccine.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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