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‘China acted swiftly to clampdown on new virus outbreak’

Professor Ben Cowling
Professor Ben Cowling

World Health Organisation coronavirus professor Ben Cowling says China has acted swiftly to clamp down on a new outbreak of Covid-19 in their capital, Beijing.

And he has a warning for the British government if the UK has a second wave of the virus.

Professor Cowling, whose family lives in Sonning, said: “In Beijing the authorities are jumping very quickly on this [new] cluster of about 100 cases. I think we will see very soon a lockdown of the entire city of Beijing to stop it developing into a second wave.”

He added: “China showed that they could be very successful in using aggressive lockdowns to stop transmission and in their first waves, particularly Wuhan, lockdowns were extremely effective, more effective than anywhere else in the world.

“But they are now kind of locked in to this cycle where when cases reappear again they are going to have to do lockdowns again. It’s going to be very very disruptive to their society and their economy.”

Then came his warning for the UK: “In Europe and the UK I don’t know if measures will be as extreme when transmission resurges but definitely the government in the UK are going to need to look at tightening some measures if cases go up.”

Professor Cowling is director of the Centre for Disease Control and Epidemiology at Hong Kong University.

Asked how cautious the UK government should be about lifting lockdown, he said: “We know that once lockdown is lifted case numbers will come up. But at the same time lockdown can’t stay strict for ever.

 “Things have to get a little back to normal. What you need to find is the balance between keeping case numbers not too high but also not being too disruptive to society and the economy,” he said.

On a lighter note he added: “People want to get haircuts – you have to open hairdressers sooner or later.”

Professor Cowling, who went to Sonning Primary School and then Reading School, was speaking on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme on Tuesday.

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