Health Secretary Matt Hancock has refused to rule out extending the second national lockdown across England, with increasing fears that Christmas could be cancelled.
A key medical advisor warned that the government’s current Tier system needs to be “strengthened” for many more months to “get us through the winter.”
Public Health England’s Dr Susan Hopkins said the Tier 1 and 2 measures had “little effect” and she hinted that MPs must consider toughening them up.
Dr Hopkins said that by tightening the measures, this will “get us through the winter months until the vaccine is available for everyone.”
Household mixing could be banned in tier one, which would ruin Christmas for family gatherings, even if the government lifts the second lockdown.
Despite this, Hancock “hopes” the current restrictions can be replaced with the previous system, but also pointed out that it is still “too early for us to know” if infections have been brought down to end the lockdown on 2 December.
Speaking from Downing Street, Hancock said, “It is too early for us to know what the number of cases will be as we come to the end of the current lockdown.
“But we absolutely hope to be able to replace the national lockdown with a tiered system similar to what we had before.”
It is most likely that Tory rebels will not vote for an extension to the second lockdown, but if Labour supports this, then it will most likely happen.
Dr Hopkins warned that the next week is vital, as if cases do not decline then the lockdown must be extended.
She said, “We expect if the lockdown is working, that we will start to see cases decline over the next week.
“We expect it will be longer to see hospital admissions, another week or so, but I think as long as we start seeing cases decline then we can start making a judgment about what are the right decisions that we make and what the opening up decisions that happen on 2 December.”
Dr Hopkins added, “We see very little effect from Tier 1 and I think when we look at what tiers may be there in the future, we will have to think about strengthening them in order to get us through the winter months until the vaccine is available for everyone.
“We have recognised that the tiering of the country has had a different effect in each area.”