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Coronavirus latest news: Row between Westminster and Manchester continues amid confusion over talks

The UK should impose a two week circuit breaker to “get on top” of a rapid surge in new infections, according to the Government’s testing tsar, and closing schools and universities may now be unavoidable.

Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at the University of Oxford, said that coronavirus “numbers are actually pretty eye watering in some parts of the country”, and it will be almost impossible to bring transmission down by “biting around the edges”.

“I can see very little way of getting on top of this without some kind of a circuit breaker,” he told BBC Radio Four this morning. 

Sir John added that closing schools and universities may now be a necessity. 

“I think there will be every effort to keep schools open, but just to paint the picture: there are universities in this country which have 50, 60, 70 per cent of their kids in quarantine. I mean oh my God. What kind of a university is that? This is not a good place to be. 

“So if in the end we have to take kids out for two weeks, calm it all down, and then start again, ideally embedded in a much more rigorous testing regime, than that’s maybe what we will have to do,” he said. 

His comments come after Britain’s biggest teachers’ union backed a circuit breaker and urged that secondary schools and colleges are closed for an extended two-week half-term.

Calls for a two week circuit breaker have been gathering momentum all week, with experts suggesting it is the only way to reduce transmission and “buy time” to fix the UK’s faltering test, trace and isolate system – which is having only a “marginal impact on transmission”, according to Sage.

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