New tough Covid-19 restrictions introduced for 99 per cent of England are unlikely to be relaxed this winter, Chris Whitty has warned.
The chief medical officer appeared to rule out any more areas moving down into tier 1, with the loosest curbs – arguing cases “will rise” if that happened.
Professor Whitty also warned that only the harshest tier 3 regime would cut infections, with tier 2 only strong enough to “hold the line”.
“If you're in tier one, the rates start to go up so you do not want to do that in winter, just before Christmas, going into the worst time for the NHS,” Professor Whitty told a press conference.
The message was echoed by Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, who said: “If you take the brakes off now, this will get up and run away.”
The gloomy messages came just minutes after Boris Johnson – fighting a Tory revolt against the harsher rules – insisted the tiers would be reviewed in mid-December.
“The allocation of tiers will be reviewed every 14 days, starting on the 16th of December, so your tier is not your destiny,” the prime minister said – in another apparent clash with his advisers.
“Every area has the means of escape and I have no doubt that, together, we can get through this winter, suppress the virus until vaccines come to our aid, and then we can reclaim our lives and all the things that we love.”