BORIS Johnson should introduce a fresh national lockdown to close schools, borders and ban all households from mixing for three months, ex-Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said today.
The PM is being urged to take drastic action to tackle the rapid spread of Covid-19, which is even more contagious than previous strains.
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Earlier today Mr Johnson said there was “no question” more measures would be needed – and he’d be revealing a package of fresh measures to get the spread under control in “due course”.
It’s not clear what these will be – but may include shutting schools and restrictions on leaving home.
Mr Hunt, who ran against Boris for the leadership of the Conservative party and previously served as Health Secretary before Matt Hancock, said today borders should be shut.
But the good news would be they would only need to be in place for up to three months – after which its thought the vaccine will be rolled out to the most vulnerable Brits.
NHS staff should get priority to “stop out hospitals falling over and keep our patients safe”, he begged.
The chairman of the Commons Health and Social Care Committee wrote on Twitter: “Time to act: thread on why we need to close schools, borders, and ban all household mixing RIGHT AWAY…
“We therefore cannot afford to wait: all schools should be closed, international travel stopped, household mixing limited and the tier system reviewed so that the highest tier really does bring down infection levels (as with the first lockdown).”
Noting Wuhan, in China, which is now free of restrictions, he added: “countries that act early & decisively save lives & get their economies back to normal faster.”
And he hit out at anti-lockdown critics, arguing: “To those arguing winter is always like this in the NHS: you are wrong. I faced four serious winter crises as Health Sec and the situation now is off-the-scale worse than any of those.”
It came as:
- An 82-year-old man became the first person to get the Oxford AstraZeneca jab this morning as the new vaccine was rolled out to hospitals
- Boris Johnson has told primary kids to return to schools today if they are open – but thousands of places have stayed shut in Tier 4 areas across the country
- Education unions said staff were at “serious risk” of infection by returning to schools and called on the Prime Minister to meet to discuss safety
- Hospitals across the country are filling up with more Covid patients – with now a quarter more people needing treatment there than in the first wave
He joined Sir Keir Starmer, SAGE scientists, other experts and local leaders who demanded swift action.
The Director of Public Health in Liverpool called for national controls today too.
Matt Ashton said “we cannot afford to wait any longer” and travel from higher tiers was affecting the area – which was previously in Tier 2.
Boris Johnson said earlier that there was “no question” of tougher measures coming “in due course” – and he would outline them soon.
He admitted that people have become “impatient” and “frustrated” with the rules – but he begged them to obey them until the vaccine can be rolled out further.
The PM said this morning: “We will be producing everything we think is necessary to keep people from spreading the virus.
“We already have a lot of the country in Tier 4.
“We have been waiting to see the impact of the tier 4 restrictions on the virus.
“If you look at the numbers, there’s no question we are going to have to take tougher measures… in due course.”
TIER 3 NOT ENOUGH
And Matt Hancock said the Government could introduce another national lockdown in England – and the current Tier 3 is not strong enough to contain the new spread.
The Health Secretary said nothing was off the table as the Government mull new measures to try and crack down on the case numbers – which have reached record highs in the past week.
Mr Hancock was asked today: “In terms of the national lockdown called for, that isn’t within the Government thinking right now, is it?”
Mr Hancock replied: “Well we don’t rule anything out.
“We have shown repeatedly we will look at the public health advice and will take [it] in terms of what is needed to control the spread of the disease.”
Boris will meet officials to decide whether the mutant strain of coronavirus surging through the country will mean a return to a March-style lockdown, with schools shut, non-essential shops shuttered and most travel banned.
Additional restrictions – dubbed Tier 5 – are also being considered, but ministers say there are no current plans for an additional official Tier.
Sage experts warned last week more measures may be necessary, including the possibility of:
- National lockdown measures like in March and November
- Bringing back the 2m rule
- Changes to schools
- Putting more people in Tier 4
- Urging people to wear masks at school and in offices
- UK and international travel restrictions
Government sources have played down the prospect of a national curfew or restrictions on exercising outside, but have warned the rules may last for months to come.
The Government’s Covid-O committee, which makes decisions on restrictions, will meet in the coming days, and Mr Hancock has stressed the data is being looked at daily.
Nicola Sturgeon is due to speak to the nation at 2pm today – where she is also set to announce new restrictions.