Boris Johnson is considering imposing stringent new national lockdown restrictions within days after scientists warned that half a million people were being infected with coronavirus each week.
The Prime Minister is expected to announce the measures for England – which could be introduced on Wednesday and last until December 1 – at a press conference on Monday, according to The Times.
Everything except essential shops and education settings could be closed under the new measures, the paper said, but no final decisions are believed to have been made. Tougher regional measures are also being considered.
Mr Johnson has so far resisted pressure from scientists and Labour to introduce a “circuit-breaker” to curb Covid-19 cases, but he is facing fresh calls after new data showed the extent of cases across England.
Professor Jeremy Farrar, an infectious diseases expert and Sage member, said on Friday evening that to bring coronavirus under control “we have to act now”.
He tweeted: “The best time to act was a month ago but these are very tough decisions which we would all like to avoid. The second-best time is now.
“The sooner we get on top of the disease, reduce transmission, R<1, the sooner we can get our society back to normal and the economy back on track.”
BBC’s Laura Keunssberg tweeted: “New data shown to PM + Chancellor yesterday shows – “all models suggest a significantly higher peak than those estimated at any point in the current Reasonable Worst Case Scenario” – wide range in the projections but one even puts daily deaths over 4,000.”
Two-weeks ago when Labour leader Starmer asked for a ‘circuit-break’ he was called a “a shameless opportunist playing political games in the middle of a global pandemic.”
His reaction to that can be seen below, when he replied to the PM: “I know that for someone who has been an opportunist his whole life, this is difficult to understand, but having read and considered the SAGE advice, I have genuinely concluded that a circuit break is in the national interest.”
Pippa Crerar: “No 10 accused Keir Starmer of being “a shameless opportunist playing political games in the middle of a global pandemic” when he suggested a circuit break two weeks ago.”
David Schneider: “So glad our government waited 44 days, 4545 deaths and hundreds of thousands more cases before finally starting to listen to the scientists. #SoProud“
Haggis_UK Twitter account wrote: “Looks like Keir Starmer is actually Captain foresight.”
Paul Mason Tweeted: “As soon as @Keir_Starmer saw the SAGE evidence he called for a short national lockdown. Johnson refused. Here’s the result we’re headed for a month long national lockdown.”
Ben Bradshaw Tweeted: “With all the talk this morning of another national #Covid19UK lockdown/circuit breaker next week, Johnson’s rejection of @Keir_Starmer’s call for a short one more than two weeks’ ago, looks like his worst blunder to date.”
Boris Johnson, October 21: “It is the height of absurdity that (Starmer) stands up and attacks the economic consequences of the measures we are obliged to take across some parts of the country when he wants to turn the lights out with a full national lockdown.”
James O’Brien: “This is the stuff that elevates Johnson, & his whole gang of sycophants & sociopaths, above ‘normal’ incompetence & cluelessness. He simply can’t help picking pointless, performative fights that harm him more than any opponent. His stubbornness & arrogance are literally lethal.”
Related: ‘Best time to act was a month ago’ as England now faces national lockdown