Putting 4.5million people in the North West under tough new lockdown measures because of a spike in coronavirus cases was a 'rash' decision, according to a leading expert.
Ministers last week announced people from different homes in Greater Manchester, parts of Lancashire and West Yorkshire would be banned from meeting each other inside their homes or in gardens following a spike in cases.
But Professor Carl Heneghan, director of Oxford University's Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, claimed Covid-19 cases aren't actually rising — despite government figures showing an upwards trend.
He said the rising infection rates are down to more people being tested and warned of inaccuracies in the data, telling the Daily Telegraph: 'The northern lockdown was a rash decision.
'Where’s the rise? By date of test through July there’s no change if you factor in all the increased testing that’s going on.'
He warned there was a rise in detected cases because of more targeted testing in areas such as Oldham, the second-worst hit borough in the country with 55.2 cases for every 100,000 people in the past week.
Ministers last week announced people from different homes in Greater Manchester, parts of Lancashire and West Yorkshire would be banned from meeting each other inside their homes or in gardens following a spike in cases
Statistics show almost 500 new cases of the coronavirus were being diagnosed in England every day at the start of July.
But this jumped to around 750 by the end of the month, which Professor Heneghan argued was 'not a sudden jump'.
Professor Heneghan added that the increase in the number of Covid-19 cases was likely down to an increase in pillar two testing.
Pillar two tests include coronavirus swab tests given to the public through DIY kits sent in the post and at drive-through centres.
Pillar one tests are ones that are given to NHS and care workers, as well as patients in hospital.
Professor Heneghan pointed to data showing the number of pillar two tests carried out each day rose by 80 per cent over the course of July to around 80,000.
But he said the number of cases spotted for every 100,000 of the tests is 'flat-lining' and that they are actually dropping for pillar one.
Professor Heneghan said it was 'essential' to adjust for the number of tests being done, adding: 'Why is no-one checking this out at government level?'
Professor Carl Heneghan, director of Oxford University's Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, claimed that cases aren't rising and that higher rates have been skewed by testing being ramped up
The Government will start testing sewage to track coronavirus and could ban domestic travel to stop local outbreaks.
Infected people are thought to shed coronavirus material in faeces soon after symptoms appear, meaning sewage could act as a quicker indicator of the presence of Covid-19 than swab tests.
This has led the government to ramp up mass sewage testing nationwide after trials across 44 sites in England were able to identify local infection rises.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said the measure would give officials a 'head start' on tackling further outbreaks.
A wave of localised flare-ups across England has prompted Downing Street to discuss radical proposals to shake up its crisis response.
This could include banning travel in and out of areas with high infections as part of a 'flexible' strategy to avoid another national lockdown and derail the economic recovery.
The notion of domestic travel bans has resurfaced in government in recent days, having initially been touted in the early stages of the pandemic when London bore the brunt of cases and was feared to be an epicentre.
Explaining why cases aren't rising on his website, he wrote: 'Leicester and Oldham have seen significant increases in testing in a short time.
'Leicester, for example in the first two weeks of July did more tests than anywhere else in England: 15,122 tests completed in the two weeks up to 13th July.'
He also questioned the accuracy of the data, saying differences in figures 'makes it difficult to make