- Boris Johnson says “tougher measures” are now needed as he comes under pressure to impose a national lockdown as the new faster-spreading coronavirus strain overwhelms hospitals in the UK.
- An explosion in case numbers is forcing schools across the country to remain closed following the Christmas break.
- Johnson has previously resisted calls for another national lockdown.
- However, he will meet with senior members of his government and advisers on Monday to decide whether a new national lockdown should now take place.
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Boris Johnson is under pressure to impose a new national lockdown in England as large numbers of schools across the country remain closed amid a surge in the new more transmissible strain of the coronavirus.
Speaking on Monday morning the prime minister admitted that “tougher measures” were now needed to control the virus.
He told reporters during a visit to a hospital in London that: “If you look at the numbers there’s no question we will have to take tougher measures and we will be announcing those in due course.”
Opposition Labour party leader Sir Keir Starmer on Sunday called for an immediate national lockdown due to an explosion in case numbers and hospitalizations over the Christmas holidays.
Families had been permitted by Johnson’s government in most parts of England to meet in small numbers on Christmas day, despite a surge in cases caused by the new strain in the virus.
Johnson had repeatedly refused to consider closing schools in England following the first national lockdown last spring, with the Education Secretary threatening to sue local authorities who closed their schools early for Christmas in December.
However, secondary schools across the UK now all remain closed until at least the middle of January with primary schools in London and other parts of south-east England also shut following a series of U-turns by Johnson’s government.
Parents across many parts of England where primaries were due to open on Monday received messages from their children’s primary schools over the weekend informing them that they would also not be reopening due to a shortage of teaching staff.
Teachers across the country have been advised by the National Education Union not to attend schools due to the “serious and imminent danger” to their health caused by the virus.
Teaching unions believe that newly released papers by the UK government’s scientific advisory committee last week warning that schools would need to close in order to bring the virus under control, mean any attempt to force schools to open would be a breach of UK work safety regulations.
As Starmer warns that the situation in the UK is now “clearly out of control” Johnson will meet with senior advisers on Monday to decide what new measures should be imposed.
The surge in cases means more areas of England will likely be placed in the highest tier of restrictions, which prevent household mixing.
However, with Johnson’s own scientific advisers warning that more restrictive measures need to be taken, including the closure of schools nationwide, Johnson is reportedly under pressure from some members of his cabinet to consider a firmer national response.
Johnson on Sunday conceded that more restrictive measures needed to be taken, but did not specify what decisions would be taken or when.
“‘It may be that we need to do things in the next few weeks that will be tougher in many parts of the country,” he told the BBC Andrew Marr show.
“I’m fully, fully reconciled to that – and I bet the people of this country are reconciled to that because until the vaccine really comes on stream in a massive way, we’re fighting this virus with the same set of tools.”
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