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expert reaction to Matt Hancock’s statement to parliament on ‘new measures in response to the acceleration of coronavirus’

On Monday 21st September, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock gave a statement to parliament outlining ‘new measures in response to the acceleration of coronavirus’.


Dr David Strain, Senior Clinical Lecturer, University of Exeter, said:

“A few specifics about the Secretary of State’s statement:

“The first is his faith in the basics of hands, face and space and the rule of 6.

“The weekly doubling in cases is occurring at a time that the first three of these tenants have been in operation.  With regard to the rule of 6 this has the potential to further increase the spread unless a degree of “monogamy” in the six is instilled.  Otherwise, an individual could break fast with 5 people from 5 households, have lunch with another 5, from 5 more households, have dinner with a further 5 household representatives and have drinks with a different 5 that evening, potentially legally infecting 20 more households in a single day.  Whilst the PM suggested this is “not in the spirit” of the rule of 6, it is legal, and the government’s successive failures to give clear instructions is resulting in the situation we have at the moment.

“With regard to the space element, I am uncertain why Mr Hancock did not take the opportunity to remind people that the physical distance that was effectively reducing transmission was 2m.  The “1m plus” message has failed.  We should revert to the system that was successful.

“Finally the reiteration of the “NHS Test and Trace” system does not make it truly an NHS system.  The NHS is dealing with this remarkably well despite decades (beyond the current government) of underfunding.  The failures are reproducibly in the Pillar 2 testing system which is in the hands of private enterprise.  Give the funds back to the NHS and the experts and allow us to do our jobs.

“With regards to his “targeted testing” point (fourth of his list) this is where the PM’s “Moonshot” program may be of use.  The technology we are developing at the University of Exeter, whilst not the ability to 100% reassure an individual to continue their normal life, will offer rapid reliable testing to identify sporadic cases through a co-ordinated screening program.  Once identified, a “COVID SWAT” team could rapidly test direct and indirect contacts (giving test results within 30 minutes).  In this case, the degree of spread would be quantifiable within 24 hours allowing a street or an office to be isolated, rather than quarantining an entire city.  This “Hunter-Carer” approach could help target near elimination, and allow our culture, economy, and the welfare of the elderly in care and younger generation in school to be protected.”


All our previous output on this subject can be seen at this weblink:


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