The UK has recorded more than one million lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus since the start of the outbreak, according to Government data. This news comes as the PM is about to make an emergency press conference at 5pm, which was originally pencilled in for 4pm.
The Prime Minister is expected to be joined by Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance in Downing Street at 5pm, following a meeting of his Cabinet earlier in the afternoon.
Mr Johnson has so far resisted pressure to introduce nationwide restrictions, opting instead for a localised tier system, but he is reportedly considering closing everything except essential shops and education settings for a month from Wednesday.
The policy shift comes after new data showed the extent of cases across England. The Office for National Statistics estimated that 568,100 people in households were infected with coronavirus in the week ending October 23.
Members of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) have backed the introduction of more stringent measures.
Professor Sir Jeremy Farrar said the consequences of sticking with the current “insufficient” restrictions would be “much worse” than going for a second lockdown.
The director of the Wellcome Trust said: “The sooner we act, the sooner we can start to recover. It will be a very difficult few weeks now and no one can underestimate the toll that will take on people.
“But the consequences of sticking with the current insufficient restrictions would have been much worse.”
Now Nick Eardley Tweeted: Sources to BBC: – New lockdown in England to last a month – Non-essential retail shut Hospitality shut – Schools and unis to stay open Confirmation expected just after 1700.
Already earlier today a Whitehall leak inquiry has been launched after details of the Government’s proposals to introduce tougher coronavirus restrictions next week were reported by newspapers.
The Times said the Prime Minister met with Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove and Health Secretary Matt Hancock to discuss “alarming” new pandemic data, and that he was expected to hold a press conference on Monday.
Other papers – including The Daily Mail and The Sun – also reported that Boris Johnson was preparing to introduce a national lockdown next week.
It is understood that Downing Street has now launched an investigation to find the source of the story, amid reports that the Government had wanted to keep the plan quiet until Monday.
John Apter, head of the organisation which represents more than 120,000 rank-and-file officers, called for “clear communication” on coronavirus measures.
He tweeted on Saturday morning: “To those briefing selective media on a potential national lockdown please understand the impact this has.
“It creates a media frenzy, causes confusion and ahead of any official announcement encourages some to make the most of their pre-lockdown time. This is not a good mix!”
He added: “This can add immense pressure to the 999 services who are already struggling with the demand they have. Please be more responsible. Clear communication, not corridor briefings.”
The British Chambers of Commerce also called for “media briefings” to end.