Obey the lockdown rules… or they’ll get tougher: Boris Johnson issues grim warning as chief medical officer Chris Whitty says we are at the worst point of the pandemic
- PM said ‘complacency’ among public could plunge country into a deeper crisis
- Comes amid mounting concern lockdown measures may need to be tightened
- Chris Whitty said Britain was ‘now at the worst point of this epidemic’
Lockdown restrictions will be tightened again if the public flout the current rules, Boris Johnson warned today.
The Prime Minister said ‘complacency’ among the public could plunge the country into a deeper crisis at what was already a ‘very perilous moment’.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock tonight reinforced his message, saying so-called support bubbles were the only lockdown exemption guaranteed to stay.
Lockdown restrictions will be tightened again if the public flout the current rules, Boris Johnson warned today
The warnings came amid mounting Government concern that the third lockdown may fail to bring the latest spike in coronavirus infections under control.
Chief medical officer Chris Whitty said Britain was ‘now at the worst point of this epidemic’ and urged people to stop seeing friends and family, even in the limited circumstances still allowed, saying every ‘unnecessary’ contact risked spreading the virus.
He added: ‘The key thing to understand is that when you meet people from another household under any circumstances – and they’re very often your friends, your family – but those are the kind of situations where the virus is passed on.’
He added: ‘It doesn’t care who you are, it doesn’t care whether they’re your friends. If you meet someone from another household, the virus has an opportunity to be transmitted.’
Ministers are considering a number of further restrictions, including closing the exemption that allows two people from different households to exercise together outdoors.
Government sources yesterday said Mr Johnson was ‘reluctant’ to scrap the exemption, which provides one of the few remaining lifelines for the lonely.
Chief medical officer Chris Whitty said Britain was ‘now at the worst point of this epidemic’
But there are fears it is muddying the ‘stay at home’ message, with the Prime Minister’s official spokesman yesterday struggling to clarify whether two friends can take drinks with them on a walk.
Mr Hancock said the exemption was under review as it was being abused. ‘We have been seeing large groups… and you should be two metres apart from the other person. If there are too many people breaking this rule then we are going to have to look at it.
‘But, I don’t want to do that because for many people, being able to go for a walk with a friend… is their only social contact.’
Pre-school nurseries and places of worship could also face restrictions if cases continue to rise – but Mr Hancock said support bubbles were sacrosanct.
The arrangement allows those living alone or with babies to link up with one other household for support. The Prime Minister and his fiancee Carrie Symonds are among those who have taken advantage of the system, forming a support bubble with Miss Symonds’s mother following the birth of their son Wilfred in April.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock tonight reinforced his message, saying so-called support bubbles were the only lockdown exemption guaranteed to stay
Ministers hope the blunt messaging on the NHS crisis and tougher rule enforcement will persuade people to comply with the letter and spirit of the lockdown.
But Labour yesterday called for the rules to be tightened, including the closure of nurseries.
Mr Hancock last night suggested a major relaxation of the rules was unlikely until all over-60s have been vaccinated – which the new plan suggests won’t be until at least April.
He said it was only at this point that ministers could be absolutely sure that hospital admissions from the virus would start to fall.
But the Covid Recovery Group of Tory MPs, who oppose lockdown, last night said it should be lifted as soon as the 13million most vulnerable are vaccinated – which the Prime Minister pledged to achieve by February 15.
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