Tier 4 lockdown restrictions could be enforced across the whole of England as a new strain of the Chinese coronavirus spreads across the country, the government’s chief scientific adviser has said. The architect of the first lockdown claimed that Tier 4 could last until April.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson forced England into a three-tier system at the beginning of December, after the country had just come out of a second national lockdown in November. The tiered system resulted in around 99 per cent of the population under the two strictest levels, Tier 2 and Tier 3.
After reports that a new strain had developed and was spreading in the south-east of England, Johnson announced a Tier 4 for London, the Home Counties, and other parts of the east and south-east on Saturday, cancelling the relaxation of restrictions for Christmas for some 16 million Britons.
During a Downing Street press conference on Monday, Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said, according to The Telegraph, that cases of the new strain are being investigated in other parts of the country, suggesting that Tier 4 could be rolled out nationally.
Sir Patrick said: “I think it is likely that this will grow in numbers of the variant across the country and I think it’s likely, therefore, that measures will need to be increased in some places, in due course, not reduced. I think it is the case that this will spread more.
“The new variant is spread around the country. It’s localised in some places but we know there are cases everywhere, so it’s not as though we can stop this getting into other places – there’s some there already.”
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Speaking to Sky News on Tuesday, Home Secretary Priti Patel would not rule out a third lockdown after Christmas, saying: “If new strains appear, and this virus has been mutating in many ways already, then of course all measures are under review.
“If the virus continues to spread then we will take stronger measures… but it’s not for me to preempt any change.”
The prospect of a third national lockdown, to follow weeks of regional restrictions, was first raised in November by Imperial College London’s Professor Neil Ferguson, whose modelling was instrumental to the government’s first lockdown in March.
Ferguson left his senior advisory role to the government in disgrace in May after it was revealed he had twice broken his own lockdown rules by inviting his married lover to his house.
Despite the scandal, Ferguson is still listed on the government website as a participant of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).
Professor Ferguson remarked on the possible duration of such Tier 4 restrictions, saying they could be in place until the Spring. Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday, the epidemiologist said that the highest restrictions “possibly” could be in place until April.
“We will track the epidemic as we always have done and policy will be informed on the basis of that. Tiers are reviewed every two weeks and will continue to be reviewed. It’s not looking optimistic right now,” Ferguson said.
He had previously said that “people will die” if families spend Christmas together.
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— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) December 21, 2020
If Ferguson’s predictions are correct, that would mean a third lockdown would be in place over the anniversary of Prime Minister Johnson’s first lockdown.
In July, Prime Minister Johnson compared the prospect of a future, second, lockdown to a “nuclear deterrent” — to be threatened but never used.
“I mean, look, I can’t abandon that tool any more than I would abandon a nuclear deterrent. But it is like a nuclear deterrent, I certainly don’t want to use it. And nor do I think we will be in that position again,” he had told The Telegraph.
On October 31st, Johnson announced a second lockdown.