THE Government will have to leave room for “highly local” interventions when it implements its road map out of lockdown, a statistician has argued.

Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, of the statistical laboratory at Cambridge University, suggested future measures could become “much more focused and targeted” as officials focused on outbreaks in particular areas.

Speaking to Times Radio on Sunday, Sir David said recent coronavirus data indicating drops in hospital admissions, death rates and cases across the country was “very encouraging”.

However, he said there were areas with still “quite a lot of cases” and “really quite substantial numbers”, adding: “These are pockets around the country.”

Sir David, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said some “scattered” areas were seeing above 200 new cases per 100,000 per week, which was “of concern”.

He also warned that unless there was greater take-up of coronavirus vaccine in some communities, in particular some ethnic communities, where it has been slower, it could become an “increasing issue”.

His comments come as Prime Minister Boris Johnson prepares to set out his plan to relax coronavirus restrictions in England on Monday.

Commenting on the potential road map, Sir David said: “What I understand is that they’re going to try to have national measures rather than regional tiered systems since that caused such a lot of problems.

“It seems to me that there’s still going to be a need for highly local measures that might have to take place.”

He later said: “I’m sure they’ll leave room for highly locally interventions and measures”, adding: “I think they are going to have to keep the possibility of having much more targeted interventions in certain areas.”

Speaking to broadcasters on Sunday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said there will be “weeks between the steps” so ministers can “watch carefully” the impact of each relaxation of the restrictions.

Appearing on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Sir David’s fellow Sage member Professor John Edmunds, when commenting on a phased reopening of schools, said that purely from an epidemiological viewpoint “it’s always safer to take smaller steps and evaluate”.

Sir David said the Government was “quite right to be very cautious”, warning “there is so much uncertainty” over the pandemic.

“Things can change and we noticed they can change pretty rapidly, and that’s quite worrying,” he said.

He said “three weeks” might be needed “to have a feeling for what’s happening so that any impact can feed through the charts”.

“I do like this idea of an adaptive strategy,” he said, adding: “Something I wish they’d done right at the beginning, of admitting the uncertainty, that there’s so much we still don’t know and things can be taken by surprise.”

Sir David warned against overly relying on data to inform decisions on coronavirus restrictions.

He said: “These are political decisions. Data does not tell you what to do at all.

“It guides you, it helps you, of course you look at this, but you have to balance and weigh it up in among everything else, about what the effect of your interventions might be, and so on.

“These are political judgements and, as a statistician, I would never say that there should be some algorithm if this is the case, then do that, the computer says no, the computer says yes, because we know how that can lead to … a rigidity of behaviour, lack of flexibility to local circumstances, and so on.”