A Government Minister Says He “Can’t Rule Out” A Third Lockdown In January If People Ignore The New Tiered Restrictions
George Eustice said the stricter coronavirus tiers "might get us through the winter" if they were adhered to (Sky News)
George Eustice has become the latest cabinet minister to suggest a third nationwide lockdown may be necessary in January if the new tiered system isn’t followed.
The environment secretary told Sky News: “I don't think it'll be necessary to go back into another full lockdown, but you can't rule anything out because this is a rapidly developing situation.
“The government has to respond to the epidemiological evidence that it will have at a given time.
“It's always difficult to predict exactly what will happen, but we judge at the moment that if we stick to the course with these tiered approaches, at this stage, then that might get us through the winter.”
His comments came in the final days of the second lockdown, which a new study has revealed led to a 30% fall in coronavirus infections.
According to data from the Imperial College and Iposos MORI “REACT” study, 96 people per 10,000 in England were infected between 13 and 24 November, compared to 132 per 10,000 between 26 October and 2 November.
It also found that there had been a dramatic fall in the number of infections in the North West and North East, which were among regions worst affected by the pandemic prior to the national lockdown.
“Our robust data offers encouraging signs for England’s epidemic, where we’re seeing a fall in infections at the national level and in particular across regions that were previously worst affected,” said Prof Paul Elliott from Imperial College.
“These trends suggest that the tiered approach helped to curb infections in these areas and that lockdown has added to this effect.”
This latest data comes as the government faces a rebellion over the introduction of new, stricter tiers of coronavirus restrictions due to be put before MPs in the coming days.
Many MPs have called for more evidence to support the new system amid anger the entire of England — with the exception of Cornwall, the Scilly Isles and the Isle of Wight — will enter Tier 2 or 3 restrictions, despite many entering lockdown in lower tiers.
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab also defended the restrictions on Sunday as he was asked by BBC’s Andrew Marr whether a January lockdown was likely.
Mr Raab responded: "We are doing everything we can to avoid that and that's why the five criteria that guide the tiers, but also the review points, are the prevalence of the diseases, the prevalence in the over 60s."
He also said there was a “risk” of a spike in cases in January as a result of the relaxation of some restrictions for five days over the Christmas period.
“And that's why we're starting with the tiered approach. It's more restrictive than some people would like than previously but that allows us to ease up,” he added.