Great Britain

Government resists calls for UK-wide lockdown despite Covid spread as ‘you can’t have stop-start country’, minister says

DOWNING Street will resist calls for a national lockdown in the UK - because "you can't have a stop-start country", a top Tory says.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick today said Boris Johnson will refuse to bow to pressure from Sage scientists and politicians for a 'circuit-breaker' shutdown.

It comes as:

It's the Government's "very firm view" that a lockdown isn't the right way forward - and instead, the PM has vowed to stick with his three-tier approach.

But the minister said the virus "is in a bad place in all parts of the country" as "frustrated" Brits face grinding local measures.

He spoke after the Government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) made a series of grim predictions about the spread of the virus.

Glum scientists say all of England should be under tier three measures by Christmas - or 85,000 people could die during a second wave of the disease.

Leaked documents suggest that under a 'reasonable worst case scenario', daily deaths could remain above 500 for three months or more, potentially lasting into March next year. 

Brits were even told cops could raid their family Christmas dinners if it's suspected Covid rules are being broken.

And the pressure on the PM has been amped up after both Germany and France announced their own new lockdowns.  

But a new campaign group says coronavirus "hysteria" is "worse than the virus".

Top scientists, NHS leaders and business chiefs have formed a new organisation, Recovery, in a bid to urge Mr Johnson to be "rational" over new lockdown measures.

And today, Mr Jenrick told Sky News: "We will continue with our localised but proportionate approach on taking action where the virus is strongest.

"But you can see from those figures that the virus is in a bad place in all parts of the country.

"The approach of trying to bear down on it where it is most concentrated, I think, continues to be the best way forward.

"Despite the fact the virus is rising across the country, it is very concentrated in some places."

And he said the impact of more national lockdowns would hit Brits hard.

"We don't want to create a second national lockdown," he said.

"At the moment it is our very firm view that that is not the right approach for the country.

"It is not a short-term measure - it is likely to be for a number of weeks.

"If it succeeded, it is likely then needed to be repeated regularly – you can't have a stop-start country where businesses are closing, people are losing their jobs, then they are having to restart again.

"The harm to people's mental health and broader wellbeing, I think, would be immense."

Asked if there was a problem with adherence to the measures, he told BBC Breakfast: "In large parts of the country, people have been in some form of restriction now since March.

"There are places, particularly in the Midlands and the North, that have been in something akin to what we describe as tier two for a very long time.

"And people are feeling fatigued, they are feeling tired and sometimes frustrated by those restrictions."

It comes as areas including Leeds and West Yorkshire prepare for tougher restrictions. 

And Susan Hinchcliffe, leader of Bradford Council, told the BBC there isn't a chance of a second UK-wide shutdown.

"I've asked that question and I've been told that there is no prospect of a national lockdown," she said.

"Obviously it's a tiered approach that the Government are promoting."

Business leaders and MPs have warned a second shutdown could devastate the UK's beleaguered economy.

The harm to people's mental health and broader wellbeing, I think, would be immense.

Robert Jenrik

Julian Metcalfe, the founder of Pret and Itsu, said another lockdown would be "impossible", adding: "Society will not recover if we do it again to save a few thousand lives of very old or vulnerable people. 

"The young people of this country will be paying for this for the next 20 to 30 years. It's terrible what's happening.

"Just because France does this with its socialist government, doesn't mean we have to."

And hotelier Sir Rocco Forte said: "A circuit breaker would be a complete disaster.

"The industry is already at death's door. It would bankrupt industry and bankrupt the Government."

More than a million people living in Nottinghamshire are to be plunged into the toughest tier three rules from tomorrow, with tattoo parlours, tanning and nail salons, piercing services, museums and galleries all ordered to close.

More than eight million people in England will be living in areas subject to the top tier of restrictions by the end of this week.  

Christmas as we know it won't be possible this year and extended gatherings likely to be off, minister admits

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