Boris Johnson 'won't return to national lockdown' despite soaring Covid-19 rate


Boris Johnson is under ­mounting pressure tonight to get a grip on the coronavirus surge with a short, sharp national lockdown.

Despite nine million more people now on the brink of joining the three million already plunged into tough Tier 3 ­measures, critics say it is not enough.

They accused the PM of “dithering” over using the “circuit-breaker” tactic recommended by Government ­scientists weeks ago, and which Wales is adopting from 6pm on Friday.

Meanwhile, local leaders from Greater Manchester continued to rebel over being put into Tier 3 and talks ended in stalemate last night, with Andy Burnham expressing “disappointment”.

The metro mayor stressed he would continue to work with ministers over financial support for those hit hardest, but the Government may now impose measures on the 2.8 million residents amid fears over hospital capacity.

Wales has announced a two week ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown

The devolved administrations have already opted for stricter measures. Three million people in Wales will be ordered to stay home for 17 days after First Minister Mark Drakeford announced a “firebreak” to stop health care being “overwhelmed”.

He said: “We are making this choice because it is the one that is recommended to us as the most effective.”

Tighter restrictions, including closing schools for a fortnight, came into force in Northern Ireland on Friday.

In Scotland, national measures have been in place for weeks, although they are set to be replaced by a tiering system from October 25. There were 18,804 new coronavirus cases across the UK yesterday, and 80 deaths, while 988 more people were admitted to hospital.

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Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned the disease was “on the offensive” as winter looms. He told the Commons: “Weekly deaths in Europe have increased by 33% and here deaths have tragically doubled in 12 days. The situation remains perilous.”

Deserted streets in central London on Sunday night

But Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the longer the PM “dithers” about a circuit breaker the harder it will be to control the virus.

He said: “To get the national R below one, more intervention will be needed.

“So is it not in the national interest to now follow the advice of SAGE and adopt a two to three-week circuit-break?” Downing Street said it would keep all measures under review, but Mr Johnson’s spokesman said: “The PM has made very clear he doesn’t want a return to something like national lockdown.”

Tier 3 rules look set to be announced for 2.3 million people in Sheffield, Leeds, Bradford and Kirklees in Yorkshire.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has warned the virus is spreading fast

 

Mr Hancock said talks were also taking place with leaders in the North East, Teeside and Nottinghamshire, home to a total of four million people.

With three million already in Tier 3 in the Liverpool region and Lancashire, it could mean around 12 million in England are under top tier restrictions by the end of the week.

No10 piled pressure on Mr Burnham, saying Covid patients could overwhelm intensive care capacity by November 12.

The projection was Downing Street’s own, rather than Government scientists.

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But Prof Jane Eddleston, regional medical lead for coronavirus response, denied its intensive care capacity was at risk. “The system can cope,” she said. “If one looks at the stark figures one might be thinking, ‘Oh gosh’. But that does not take into account additional capacity that will come into play.”

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Official figures show case rates in the city of Manchester itself fell over the last week from 556 per 100,000 to 460.

But other areas of Greater Manchester are seeing continued higher growth.

Mr Ashworth called on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to spend less time “admiring himself on Instagram ” and deliver a support package for the region. Officials discussed a hardship fund yesterday, but by the time local leaders held talks with Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick it had been taken off the table.

One person in the meeting said: “It was crazy. Something collapsed on the Government’s side during the meeting.”

Sheffield City region is expected to agree this week to go into Tier 3, but regional mayor Dan Jarvis wants the Government to boost the new furlough scheme to a limit of £1,400 per month.

The Welsh “firebreak” means pubs, restaurants, non-essential shops, leisure centres, gyms and libraries must close.

Primary schools will stay open as will secondary schools for years 7 and 8.

People who have booked holidays in Wales will not be able to enter.

Wales recorded 626 cases yesterday bringing its total to 36,253 while the country’s R-value is between 1.1 and 1.4.

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BMA Cymru Wales chairman David Bailey said: “Bringing in stronger restrictions in Wales at this point is essential.”





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