Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain has brushed aside advice from an influential group of scientists to lock down the economy for a brief period to try to halt a surge in coronavirus cases.
The recommendation, contained in newly published minutes from the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, or Sage, has intensified the debate in Britain over whether Mr. Johnson’s government is doing enough to avert a second wave of the pandemic.
On Monday, Mr. Johnson ordered pubs and gyms in the city of Liverpool to close, part of a new three-tiered system of restrictions targeting places hardest hit by the virus. But he has resisted pressure to impose a so-called “circuit breaker” lockdown — a brief national shutdown designed to stop the exponential increase in infections — saying it would come at too high an economic and social cost.
In the minutes of its Sept. 21 meeting, posted online late Monday night, Sage recommended a brief lockdown as one of several measures to stop what it warned could be a “very large epidemic with catastrophic consequences.” The scientists also advised closing restaurants, gyms and hairdressers, urging people to work from home, and converting universities to remote learning. And they expressed doubts about the effectiveness of one of the measures Mr. Johnson has imposed: closing pubs and restaurants at 10 p.m.
The politics of lockdowns are fraught for Mr. Johnson. He has long pledged to be guided by scientific advice. But he faces fierce opposition from members of his own Conservative Party and from local and regional officials in the north of England, who contend that the measures are crippling their economies.