MATT Hancock has warned England’s lockdown could be extended beyond December 2 – fuelling fears of a ruined Christmas.
The Health Secretary said last night it was “too early to know” if the current Covid restrictions have worked.
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Mr Hancock hinted the next week will be crucial, as cases should start to fall if “lockdown is working”.
He 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.
“At the moment most of the tests that we’re getting back and most of the positive cases are from around the time when the lockdown came in.
“It’s too early to expect to see in the data the impact of the second lockdown, but we absolutely hope to be able to replace the national lockdown with a tiered system.”
It came as:
Meanwhile, PHE boss Dr Susan Hopkins warned a tougher tier system would likely replace national shutdown.
In a blow for home Christmas parties, she said that Tier 1 wasn’t working – so stricter rules would have to be enforced.
But last night it was suggested this may be scrapped or made even tougher if England emerges from the four-week shut down on December 2.
The next stage up is Tier 2, where people are banned from mixing indoors with people from other households.
Dr Hopkins said: “We see very little effect from Tier 1.
“When we look at what the Tiers may be 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.”
Tier 2 was only working in some areas – but Tier 3 was driving down cases in the North West, she said.
She suggested that “if the lockdown is working, we will start to see cases decline over the next week”.
If it doesn’t, then lifting the rules in full would be at risk, she added.
But Tory MP Iain Duncan Smith fumed: “She wants to keep us in lockdown.
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“She doesn’t care about the economy and keeping businesses open.
“If they get rid of Tier 1, our economy is dead.”
And Matt Hancock told the nation: “It’s not about whether there is a Tier system but what about measures are in each Tier.”
But he said that no such discussions have taken place yet in No10.
The Health Secretary also refused to rule out making a coronavirus vaccine mandatory.
It comes as yesterday’s figures showed cases rose by just 0.06 per cent in a week, seeming to mean Covid cases are flattening.
The ZOE Covid symptom app and experts at Kings College London also say the cases are already falling.
NHS Test and Trace chief medical adviser Dr Hopkins added: “As long as we start seeing cases decline we can start making a judgement about what are the right decisions.”
England’s lockdown system is set to be replaced with a tweaked version of the tiers system in early December.
Ministers are set to decide on and outline the plans to MPs next week – ahead of a vote in the House of Commons.
No10 has refused to rule out the tiers being different to how they were before.
The Sun revealed yesterday that regions of England could be placed into on-off lockdowns for months to come.
The tough new measures are part of a new “pump the brakes” Covid strategy being talked about.
Previously Tier 3 was the toughest level of restrictions – with pubs serving booze shut.
But officials have been looking at whether to add additional layers to it – possibly even a harsher Tier 4 which could mirror the national lockdown England has at the moment.
Non-essential shops could be shut and people banned from all but essential travel.
And Boris has yet to tell the nation whether they will be able to spend Christmas with their families.
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He has said he is working on a plan to make sure all four nations of the country can come together under one plan.
One source told The Sun that the rule of six could be replaced with a higher number so extended families are able to come together on December 25.