Boris Johnson threatens national shutdown in January

New Year lockdown fear: Boris Johnson threatens national shutdown in January if people don’t obey new Covid tier system

  • PM said Covid threat had ‘not gone away’ despite misery of a second lockdown
  • He said vaccine progress gave ‘hope’ but UK faced ‘hard winter’ of restrictions
  • Decision to put 99% of England in top two of three tiers, where socialising is banned, infuriated MPs

Boris Johnson threatened last night to impose a ‘New Year national lockdown’ if people didn’t obey the new tier system.

In a blunt warning, the Prime Minister said the threat posed by the virus had ‘not gone away’ despite the misery of a second lockdown.

He said the development of vaccines gave ‘hope’, but warned that the UK faced a ‘hard winter’ of restrictions.

The PM, who once said the idea of a second lockdown was a ‘nuclear deterrent’ that would never be needed, raised the prospect of a third lockdown in January if people ignored the new rules. 

He said: ‘If we ease off now, we risk losing control of this virus all over again, casting aside our hard-won gains, and forcing us back into a New Year national lockdown with all the damage that would mean.’

The decision to put 99 per cent of England in the top two of three tiers, where socialising is banned, infuriated MPs.

Boris Johnson threatened last night to impose a ‘New Year national lockdown’ if people didn’t obey the new tier system. In a blunt warning, the Prime Minister said the threat posed by the virus had ‘not gone away’ despite the misery of a second lockdown

The PM, who once said the idea of a second lockdown was a ‘nuclear deterrent’ that would never be needed, raised the prospect of a third lockdown in January if people ignored the new rules

The decision to put 99% of England in the top two of three tiers, where socialising is banned, infuriated MPs

In Kent, where cases are high in the north and east but low elsewhere, MPs had urged ministers not to apply blanket restrictions. (Above, Sheerness in the borough of Swale, Kent on Thursday)

Mr Johnson said fortnightly reviews could let communities move into less restrictive tiers if cases fell, adding: ‘Your tier is not your destiny. Every area has the means of escape.’ 

He said areas in Tier Three would have access to mass testing, which helped cut cases in Merseyside. 

But critics questioned whether, even with the support of 14,000 troops placed on stand-by, the Government could organise the mass testing of the 23.3 million people in Tier Three.

Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty suggested there would be no significant shift of areas into Tier One for months – and Tier One restrictions were too lax, adding that it was ‘almost certain’ that they would allow cases to continue rising.

Former Tory chief whip Mark Harper said his comments made it clear the restrictions would remain for months. 

Mr Harper, chairman of the Covid Recovery Group of Tory MPs, said his intervention ‘rather suggests if you’re in Tier Two, it is your destiny – at least until the spring’.

The tier allocations caused dismay among MPs of all parties, with many furious that their constituencies were put under harsh restrictions because of high Covid numbers in neighbouring areas.

In Kent, where cases are high in the north and east but low elsewhere, MPs had urged ministers not to apply blanket restrictions. 

Parts of the county have had so few cases in recent days that they are not even included in official data.

But when Health Secretary Matt Hancock published the list yesterday, the whole county was placed in Tier Three.

Former Labour chairman Andrew Gwynne criticised inconsistencies in the rules, adding: ‘I will never understand the logic of a tiering system that says it’s okay for thousands to cram into a shopping centre in the run-up to Christmas, but small numbers from the same household are unable to sit responsibly for a meal and a drink in a bar or restaurant.’

Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty suggested there would be no significant shift of areas into Tier One for months – and Tier One restrictions were too lax, adding that it was ‘almost certain’ that they would allow cases to continue rising

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