Boris Johnson today confirmed that tougher coronavirus lockdown is coming amid hints the whole of England will be under Tier 4 within days – and enforcement could be hardened.
The PM put Britons on notice that stronger restrictions will be needed for months, despite the optimism sparked by the first Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine doses being administered.
Speaking during a visit to Chase Farm Hospital in north London, Mr Johnson warned of ‘tough tough’ weeks to come.
He added: ‘If you look at the numbers there’s no question we will have to take tougher measures and we will be announcing those in due course.
Earlier Mr Hancock responded to demands from Labour and scientists for a national lockdown by saying all options are on the table. But he suggested the first step will be to escalate even more of the country into the harshest restrictions, saying Tier 3 did not seem able to hold back the more infectious version of the deadly disease.
He insisted the problem was partly down to people failing to obey the rules, amid calls from some MPs for police to be given more powers.
Meanwhile, parents are facing chaos as many primary schools defy the government’s orders to return after the Christmas holidays – with speculation that ministers will be forced into another humiliating U-turn.
SAGE has cautioned that it is probably impossible to control the new coronavirus variant while they remain open – although experts a total shutdown still might not be enough to bring the ‘R’ reproduction rate below one.
Nicola Sturgeon is expected to announce a fresh crackdown in the Scottish Parliament this afternoon, with speculation that schools north of the border will stay closed until mid-February.
Asked in a round of interviews about the prospect of a national lockdown, Mr Hancock said: ‘We don’t rule anything out, and we’ve shown repeatedly that we will look at the public health advice and we will take the public health advice in terms of what is needed to control the spread of the disease.’
Pressed whether changes could be announced over the next 24 hours, he replied: ‘We have shown we are ready to move incredibly quickly… We look at the data on a daily basis.’
Mr Hancock said the ‘old tier system is no longer strong enough’ because the new variant is ‘much easier to catch, it is much more transmissible, and we’re now seeing the effect of that in lots of different parts of the country’.
Challenged on Sky News over whether Tier 4 restrictions work, Mr Hancock said: ‘It is down to people’s behaviour, frankly. What matters is, yes of course, the rules that we put in place, but it is also about how people act.
‘And frankly what I would say is this: it is critical that everybody in the country does all that they can to reduce the spread of the virus.’
Read more: The very script I predicted in the spring: UK Cult gofer Hancock ‘hints’ at even tougher restrictions and admits ‘new squeeze’ to fight ‘out of control mutant Covid’ will last MONTHS with untested Gates vaccines the only hope of escape. You bloody liar, Hancock – it’s a long-planned script and you know it