BRITS face tough new nationwide Covid restrictions by the end of next week, The Sun has learnt.
Boris Johnson is expected to address the nation at the beginning of the week to make a major announcement.
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It comes after government scientists presented him with “grim” data on the second wave.
And, crucially, the projections predict NHS beds will become overwhelmed with Covid patients.
Government medics have warned that some hospitals may not even have enough staff to cope with the extra patients on top of the normal winter strains on the NHS.
Insiders said the PM was likely to announce new nationwide curbs that will come into effect by the end of the week.
Pubs, bars and restaurants face being closed for weeks under the clampdown — which the Government is determined to avoid calling a new lockdown.
There is an ongoing debate within Whitehall over whether to impose national restrictions or toughen up local measures.
Options being considered are ramping up the current tiered system of Covid restrictions by adding a fourth level — dubbed Tier 3 Plus.
That has been suggested for the biggest hotspots — but some insiders prefer a blanket approach of the same restrictions across the country.
Earlier yesterday, the Government’s top scientists had left Brits in a Covid muddle by calling for tougher curbs — as the R rate falls.
WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR
The Sage advisory body said a four-week total national lockdown was the only way to save Christmas for families.
But its own figures showed the R number — the amount of people each infected person passes the virus to — is coming down.
Meanwhile, there were hugely conflicting numbers from various sources on daily infections.
A Government-funded study called REACT-1 claimed it was 96,000, the Office for National Statistics put it at nearly 52,000 and research from King’s College London suggested it was 43,569.
But the official daily update issued for lab- confirmed cases was 24,405 — up from 23,065 on Thursday.
A further 274 new deaths were also reported yesterday, down from 280 a day earlier, taking the toll to 46,229.
And Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab refused to rule out a national lockdown like those in France and Germany.
He said: “We’re always ready for further measures that we can take.”
But the leader of the UK’s largest Covid survey called for calm.
Government scientific advisers are understood to have warned Boris Johnson that a longer lockdown is now necessary.
They believe all areas will need to enter Tier 3 — with some facing even stricter controls.
Professor Tim Spector, from King’s College London, said that hospital deaths are still “average” for the season and people should be reassured.
Infection rates in the North of England are still around four-times higher than the South, although the gap is narrowing.
Prof Spector said: “While cases are still rising across the UK, we want to reassure people that cases have not spiralled out of control, as has been recently reported from other surveys.
The Sage body yesterday said the R number has fallen over the past week from between 1.2 and 1.4 to between 1.1 and 1.3.
This means the outbreak is continuing to grow but not as fast.
Sage had called for a short nationwide lockdown last month to put Covid into retreat.
But a senior source said ministers had “missed the boat” and such a measure would now fail to get the epidemic under control.
Sage says deaths are highly likely” to exceed the “reasonable worst case scenario” drawn up earlier to help the Government with its planning.
It assumed there would be more than 500 Covid deaths a day for 90 days, with a peak of 800 a day in February and 85,000 in total in the second wave.
Politicians and scientists want to bring infection rates down far enough so loved ones can gather safely for Christmas.
But a source said: “It’s definitely too late to think that the two-week circuit breaker on its own would sort this.
“It would bring it down a bit, but it wouldn’t be enough to bring it right down. Now, almost certainly, it would need to go on for longer to have a significant effect and to get it down to appropriate levels.”
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Advisers are privately furious their earlier warnings of 50,000 new cases and 200 deaths a day by early winter were rubbished.
But ex-Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said: “We’ve moved from a two-week business breaker to a four-week Britain breaker.
“We need Sage and others to understand that a broken economy will lead to desperate times including extended ill-health and a situation where the poorest in society will suffer the most.”
And he added: “We must not do a national lockdown.”
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