Sage Document sidelined by UK Government

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Sage Document sidelined by UK Government

The government’s committee of scientific experts urged ministers to impose a circuit breaker lockdown on 21 September, according to Sage Document.

What is unusual about these Sage documents?

The timing of their release, for a start. In the interests of transparency (in response to pressure) the government has been releasing Sage minutes around lunchtime on a Friday for many months. These documents were published at 8.20pm on a Monday, within an hour of the prime minister’s press conference in which he described the new three-tier system of restrictions on areas with high numbers of Covid infections. That makes them look very like a dissenting opinion.

Sage Document
Sage Document

What do they say?

The minutes of the Sage meeting on 21 September show the experts wanted a dramatic increase in restrictions across the country to check the alarming rise in infections, warning at that point that the number of cases was doubling every seven days and hospitalisations had begun to increase. A package of measures was needed, they said, to include:

  • a “circuit-breaker” lockdown of a couple of weeks.
  • advice to work from home for all who could.
  • a ban on household mixing in homes.
  • closure of all bars, cafes, restaurants, indoor gyms and personal services such as hairdressers.
  • all university and college teaching to be online.

What did the UK actually do?

The circuit-breaker idea was leaked and discussed, but nothing came of it. Sage describes it as “a short period of lockdown to return incidence to low levels”, which would require everyone to stay home for two to three weeks, possibly in the school holidays. It would bring the R number down below 1, but only temporarily. Modelling suggests 14 days of lockdown in October would put the epidemic back by 28 days and significantly reduce infections in December.

Source: The Guardian