A new national lockdown looks likely to be imposed across England in an effort to curb further spread of Covid-19.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said that the government does not “rule anything out” and is prepared to act “rapidly” where necessary.
‘All down to people’s behaviour’
Mr Hancock warned that parts of England currently under Tier 3 restrictions are seeing sharp rises in coronavirus cases, hinting that Tier 4 measures may be needed in more areas in the near future.
The Health Secretary said that whether Tier 4 restrictions work effectively is “down to people’s behaviour”, but national restrictions have not been ruled out if cases continue to rise.
Speaking to Sky News, 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.
“This 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, unfortunately.
“And it means that whereas the old Tier 3 was able to contain the old variant, that is proving increasingly difficult in all parts of the country.”
Asked whether Tier 4 restrictions work, the Health Secretary added: “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.”
Current restrictions not enough
The threat of a new national lockdown comes after Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) adviser, Sir Mark Walport, warned that further restrictions are needed to stop the spread of the virus.
The former chief scientific adviser to the government said the focus in the UK should be about “breaking essentially every possible route of transmission we possibly can”.
A new variant of coronavirus is believed to be driving the recent surge in cases. First identified in the UK and South Africa, the new variant spreads much faster and has seen daily cases in the UK surpass 50,000, prompting warnings that tougher social distancing measures may be needed to keep the spread under control.
Sir Mark suggested that heightened measures may require the government to revisit the possibility of widespread school closures, as people aged between 12 and 16 are “seven times more likely” to bring the infection into a household.
Speaking with the BBC’s Andrew Marr on Sunday (3 Jan), Sir Mark said: “It’s the Tier 4 restrictions, it’s obeying them. It is thinking about breaking essentially every possible route of transmission we possibly can.
“Those are the things that are absolutely necessary and it is pretty clear we’re going to need more.”