Boris Johnson refuses to rule out third national lockdown
Boris Johnson said rates of infection have increased “very much in the last few weeks” and has declined to rule out another national lockdown.
Pressure grows on the Government to do more to tackle the rise as health chiefs warn of the toll on frontline staff and services from festive mixing.
Northern Ireland and Wales are bracing for lockdowns in the days after Christmas, and a senior emergency medicine doctor said the rest of the UK must do “whatever it takes” to get infections under control.
Mr Johnson was asked whether England would follow Northern Ireland in imposing stringent restrictions after the festive period.
He said: “We’re hoping very much that we will be able to avoid anything like that. But the reality is that the rates of infection have increased very much in the last few weeks.”
Schools minister Nick Gibb earlier insisted England’s tier system is “very effective”.
But he added “we rule nothing out” when asked about the possibility of a national lockdown after Christmas.
The president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, Dr Katherine Henderson, described a “real perfect storm” for hospitals as they try to balance increased numbers of Covid-19 patients with non-Covid work and a lack of beds.
She said: “It seems to me we need to do whatever it takes to get the situation firmly under control so that we can vaccinate people and then move forward.”
The latest figures from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) show that the reproduction number, or R value, of coronavirus transmission across the UK is estimated to have risen to between 1.1 and 1.2.
Mr Johnson has reiterated his warnings to people to see the five-day Christmas relaxation period as “very much a maximum – that’s not a target people should aim for”.
He added: “Keep it short, keep it small, have yourselves a very little Christmas as I said the other night – that is, I’m afraid, the way through this year.
“Next year I have no doubt that as we roll out the vaccine and all the other things that we’re doing, it will be very, very different indeed.”