England's three-tiered lockdown system is 'the worst of all worlds', a SAGE member warned today - highlighting the growing rift between ministers and their scientists.
Stephen Reicher, professor of social psychology at the St Andrews University, said the 'disastrous' scheme had failed at attempting to make local Covid-19 rules clearer.
He told the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Coronavirus - set up to scrutinise the Government's handling of the crisis - the system had been a 'good idea in principle'.
But a lack of transparency about the criteria being used to justify tightening rules in various towns and cities has left residents and local leaders in the dark about why their areas were being targeted.
Professor Reicher warned this lack of clarity and inconsistency had led to a 'growing sense of inequality and resistance' among the public.
It comes as 2.8million people in Greater Manchester look poised to be plunged into a Tier Three lockdown against the will of the region's local mayor.
SAGE - the Government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies - had been banging the drum about a 'circuit breaker' lockdown for weeks and was opposed to the three-tier system from the outset.
A circuit breaker would've seen the country retreat into a spring-like lockdown for two to three weeks to reset the epidemic and give ministers breathing space. But it was dismissed by Boris Johnson amid fears it would shatter the already fragile economy.
Professor Stephen Reicher, a behavioural scientist on a panel that feeds into SAGE, said England's three-tiered lockdown system is 'the worst of all worlds
Professor Reicher - who sits on the Independent Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (SPI-B) sub group of SAGE - told the committee: 'We have the worst of all worlds, we have a system where there is no sense of clarity. There is a growing sense of inequity and resistance.'
'A tier system isn't bad in and of itself, the way it's been applied I think has been disastrous and is leading to political paralysis when we need action really quickly because infections are spiking.'
The UK is on to a 'losing game' if it tries to use local lockdowns alone in responding to the coronavirus pandemic, a public health expert has said.
Speaking to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus, Devi Sridhar, professor and chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, said using lockdowns are 'a last-resort measure'.
She said local lockdowns were being deployed based on data covering hospitalisations and the NHS's capacity to manage the inflow of patients.
'I personally think that is a losing game because with this virus it is so infectious that if you try to rely on treating your way through it you'll be stuck in lockdown and release cycles.'
She added: 'The analogy for me is leaving your health services alone on the pitch as if they are the goalie and the rest of the field wide open.'
Prof Sridhar said the way countries could be 'winning' against the virus was through 'strong suppression' and a 'zero-Covid' approach seen in east Asia.
This included using test, trace and isolate, bringing in restrictions to limit flare-ups, border restrictions and clear messaging to the public.
He warned if resistance was 'politicised' it could risk 'polarising' the country, as has been seen in the US.
Professor Reicher said public trust in the Government was critical at a time when the virus is resurging and the only way to stop it is for people to follow social distancing rules.
He is calling for Downing Street to 'reset' its relationship with the people, become more transparent and be willing to admit when it makes mistakes.
'We need to completely reset the relationship between government and public, there needs to be a lot more humility,' ther said.
'We don't need world beating this or that, we need functional this and that, we need to be able to admit our mistakes and we've got things wrong and how we're going to improve them. We need to move away also from punishment.'
The Government late last month granted police more powers to punish people who do test positive and end up breaking isolation rules.
The move came as the NHS Test and Trace system continued to miss tens of thousands of cases each week and adherence to lockdown rules began to dwindle, following weeks of chopping and changing of the restrictions.
As of September 28, police are now able to carry out spot checks and act on tip-offs to enforce the rules.
And people ordered to quarantine after they or a contact test positive for the virus face a knock on the door from officers to check they are not leaving their home.
Those who do not self-isolate – or employers who force staff to turn up to work – will be hit with fines of up to £10,000.
Professor Reicher said the 'threat of fines' meant people might not get tests if they could be potentially 'criminalised', nor would they 'give up the names of their mates'.
The increasing number of local lockdowns is driving the country towards a national lockdown in all but name, a public health expert has suggested.
Devi Sridhar, professor and chair of global public health, University of Edinburgh, told the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus that local lockdowns should be used to protect areas with low incidence of Covid-19 cases from those that have spikes.
Restrictions on movement should be introduced, accompanied by testing and tracing, she explained.
Prof Sridhar added: 'I think the mistake has been that we're now seeing all over the country increases so all that's going to be is putting in more and more local restrictions until we basically have a national lockdown but we're just not calling it that.'
He added: 'Treating the public as a partner with the respect and humility and support that is necessary is absolutely crucial.'
The Government is facing a two-pronged threat - not only is it struggling to convince people who test positive to isolate, but it's also