Dr. Sakthi Karunanithi was speaking as speculation mounts that the government is poised to close down the hospitality sector across multiple regions, including Lancashire.
He believes that the measures – which could be announced within days – are inevitable, because of the speed with which infection rates are rising. But he urges careful consideration about how the restrictions are eventually lifted.
“Right now, we need maximum suppression of the virus, but that’s because we missed the boat to avoid getting to this point.
“If we do now go into these extra restrictions, we need to come out of them with a much more cautious approach. That way we can avoid making the same mistakes again.
“In New York, for instance, they have reduced the maximum capacity in hospitality venues to 25 percent. If you were to add that to making household mixings illegal in all settings, then I think that would help us to avoid the rebound when the restrictions are lifted.
“Of course, you’d need public co-operation and businesses would still have to be compensated properly for the loss of income. You have to pay your way out of this,” Dr. Karunanithi said.
Currently in Lancashire, households are urged not to mix in any indoor or outdoor setting, but – unlike in some other parts of the North – it is only actually unlawful to do so in homes and private gardens. The guidance is not legally enforceable in places like pubs and restaurants.
That is one of many slight variations between areas where similar packages of partial lockdown restrictions have been introduced.
“Cases are going up and hospitals are getting busier. You can’t blame it all on people – many are doing their best, but will be confused by all these messages,” Dr. Karunanithi added.
The public health boss also called for the protection of jobs and mental health if and when the expected tighter lockdown is introduced.