RESIDENTS in the Tyne Valley and beyond should be facing tougher lockdown restrictions, according to leading scientists. 

A more infectious variant, coupled with the usual winter pressures, requires stricter measures than the ones announced by Boris Johnson for England this month, the experts have warned.

Similar lockdown measures are in place across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Professor Robert West, a participant in the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours (SPI-B), said the current restrictions were "still allowing a lot of activity which is spreading the virus".

The professor of health psychology at University College London said he, and people he has spoken to including epidemiologists, medical scientists and virologists, think the rules should be tightened.

He said more children were going to school than in the first lockdown and that schools were "a very important seed of community infection".

He added: "Because we have the more infectious variant, which is somewhere around 50 per cent more infectious than last time round in March, that means that if we were to achieve the same result as we got in March we would have to have a stricter lockdown, and it's not stricter. It's actually less strict."

Some scientists have estimated the variant could be as much as 70 per cent more transmissible.

Susan Michie, professor of health psychology at University College London, said the current lockdown was "too lax".

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) member said: "It is definitely too lax, because if you think about it and compare ourselves with March, what do we have now?
"We have the winter season and the virus survives longer in the cold, plus people spend more time indoors and we know aerosol transmission, which happens indoors, is a very big source of transmission for this virus.

"And secondly we have this new variant which is 50-70 per cent more infectious. You put those two things together, alongside the NHS being in crisis, we should have a stricter rather than less strict lockdown than we had back in March."

Both she and Prof. West are also part of Independent Sage, a group of experts who have called for tougher measures at various points throughout the pandemic.