The growing concerns of Government scientists may explain the Prime Minister’s determination to stick to a policy that has proved so controversial. They may also shed light on the reluctance of ministers to discuss an “exit strategy” from the current restrictions.

More than eight million people – almost all of them in the North – are now living under Tier 3 measures, with no end in sight.

Professor Wendy Barclay, a Sage member and scientist from Imperial College London, on Tuesday said none of the current restrictions appeared to be having a significant impact on the spread of the virus.

“The total lockdown that we had back in late March was enough to turn the tide and get the virus back under control,” she told Times Radio. “So far, none of the other restrictions that we’ve seen, and none of the other actions, seem to have done that.”

On Tuesday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said Europe’s daily Covid deaths had risen by almost 40 per cent in a week. The organisation’s Dr Margaret Harris said France, Spain, the UK, the Netherlands and Russia had seen some of the most significant rises. 

“Across the European region, we’re seeing an intense and indeed alarming increase in cases and deaths,” she told the BBC’s World at One programme. Daily cases rose by a third compared with the previous week, she said, while daily deaths increased by “close to 40 per cent”.

“Despite better management of hospital capacity, hospitals in several countries are filling up fast,” Dr Harris said, adding that hospitals were braced for a “grim” period but experience of how to treat the virus from the first wave should boost survival rates. 

It came as British analysis of  more than 21,000 hospital admissions showed that, between March and June, death rates in intensive care from Covid had halved from 41 per cent to 21 per cent.

The findings, in research led by the University of Exeter, involving the University of Warwick and supported by The Alan Turing Institute, were published in Critical Care Medicine.

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