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Government scientists are calling for a 14-day national lockdown next month to avoid "breaking the NHS ".
The NHS test-and-trace system is said to be "creaking at the seams" as the country's R rate pushes past 1.7.
A Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) scientist told the Financial Times: "As schools will be closed for one week at half-term, adding an extra week to that will have limited impact on education."
They added the country's R number was on course to “break the NHS”, and that the test-and-trace system was “creaking at the seams”.
Sage and the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling reportedly recommended a second lockdown as tests showed Covid-19 positive cases were close to doubling every week in England.
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Imperial College London and Ipsos Mori last Friday estimated the R rate – the average number of new cases generated by an infected person – stood at 1.7, meaning the disease is spreading exponentially.
The head of NHS Test and Trace has denied it was "failing" when challenged over a lack of available tests.
Baroness Dido Harding blamed modelling by Sage and people getting tested despite not having symptoms.
Meanwhile Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg told MPs that "instead of this endless carping", people should "celebrate the phenomenal success of the British nation in getting up to a quarter of a million tests of a disease that nobody knew about until earlier in the year".
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told MPs he wants to avoid a second lockdown, saying "it would be completely wrong for this country".
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