England could be facing a New Year national lockdown if it eases off on coronavirus restrictions, Boris Johnson has warned.
The prime minister was speaking after the announcement of new coronavirus tiers which will thrust 99 per cent of the country’s population into tougher restrictions on 2 December.
He said that following the measures set out in his winter plan was “the best way” of avoiding a third national lockdown shutting shops, pubs and restaurants and cutting back social contacts.
Speaking at a 10 Downing Street press conference, Mr Johnson warned: "If we ease off now, we risk losing control of this virus all over again, casting aside our hard-won gains and forcing us into a New Year national lockdown with all the damage that would mean.
“The tough measures in our winter plan are the best way to avoid this outcome.”
The prime minister was speaking alongside chief medical officer Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance on his first day out of self-isolation, 14 days after he was in close contact with a Tory MP who tested positive for Covid-19.
Mr Johnson said that whichever tier a region was placed in, there would be “substantial” relaxation of the restrictions imposed during the four-week England-wide national lockdown which began on 5 November.
Shops, hairdressers, gyms and places of worship will be open in all parts of the country, he said.
“What we've got to do is keep our eye on the prize,” he said.
"And remember that in just a few months we will have a vaccine - I'm absolutely convinced of it now. I'm convinced - Chris has finally talked me into it - that by April things genuinely will be much, much better.
"But what we want to avoid is relaxing too much now, taking our foot off the throat of the beast now, when we have got it in a much, much better place than it was before the autumn measures came in.
“There is a substantial relaxation across all tiers, but we're not abandoning the fight yet. Of course not, because we still have long months ahead.”