Government Would Consider New Lockdown If Cases Become "Unacceptable", Minister Claims
The Tory minister suggested new lockdown rules could be introduced if cases hit "unacceptable" levels
Solicitor General Lucy Frazer said the government would "look at" introducing new lockdown restrictions if cases hit "unacceptable" levels.
The Tory minister floated the suggestion just hours after England's Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said the UK was "not out of the woods" ahead of final lifting of lockdown restrictions on 19 July.
It comes after the UK recorded nearly 50,000 new Covid cases on Thursday, with recent NHS data showing over 500,000 people had been 'pinged' by the Covid app and told to self-isolate in the first week of July.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has already ditched his claim that the 19 July date would be an "irreversible" step, claiming instead that the vaccination programme and the summer weather provided a good opportunity to lift the final restrictions.
But he urged people to be cautious over the summer months, including a plea to continue wearing face-coverings in busy indoor settings.
Speaking to Sky News on Friday, solictor general Lucy Frazer said the government would consider reimposing restrictions if cases and hospitalisations became "unacceptable".
"I think the health secretary has been very clear, as has the prime minister, that we will see infections rise. But the reason the restrictions are being taken away is because of the vaccination programme which will protect people when those infections rates rise," she said.
"Of course, if we get into a situation where it is unacceptable and we do need to put back further restrictions then that is of course something the government will look at.
"But we are going into the summer, a large number of people have been vaccinated, we have had a really tough time.
"We are still asking people to take responsibility and we do need to ask ourselves, if we don't open up now when will we be able to open up?"
But in a warning on Thursday, Whitty said Covid hospitalisations were already doubling every three weeks and could hit "scary numbers" in the coming months.
"I don't think we should underestimated the fact that we could get into trouble again surprisingly fast," he said.
"I think saying the numbers in hospitals are low now, that does not mean the numbers will be low in hospital in five, six, seven, eight weeks time.
"They could actually be really quite serious."
He urged people to "take things incredibly slowly" after social distancing rules are scrapped adding that he believed most of the public would continue to take precautions after 19 July.
"If you look over what people have done, and in fact if you look at what people intend to do now, people have been incredibly good at saying, 'I may be a relatively low risk, but people around me are at high risk, and I'm going to modify my behaviours, I'm going to reduce my contacts, I'm going to improve ventilation'."
PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe