Stricter lockdown restrictions probably on the way, says UK PM Johnson
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Sunday tougher lockdown restrictions were probably on the way as COVID-19 cases keep rising, but that schools were safe and children should continue to attend where permitted.
COVID-19 cases in Britain are at record levels and the increase in numbers is fueled by a new and more transmissible variant of the virus. The government has canceled the planned reopening of schools in and around London, but unions want bigger closures.
Much of England is already living under the strictest level of restrictions under a four-tier system of regional regulations designed to stop the spread of the virus and protect the national healthcare system.
But, in a BBC interview, asked about concerns that the system may not be enough to bring the virus under control, Johnson said the restrictions could “unfortunately, be tightened”.
“There are, of course, a number of stricter measures that we will have to consider … I’m not going to speculate now on what that would be,” he said.
Opposition party leader Keir Starmer said Johnson should implement a national exclusion within the next 24 hours.
“What we have learned is that the longer you delay the difficult decisions, the worse it is on the health front, the worse it is on the economic front,” Starmer told reporters.
Johnson sets policies for England, with rules set in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales by their dedicated authorities.
Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon said her cabinet would meet on Monday to discuss possible further steps to curb the spread of the virus, and ordered a recall of the Scottish Parliament.
Britain on Sunday recorded 54,990 new cases of the virus and registered more than 75,000 deaths due to the pandemic.
The government’s response has been heavily criticized. But the rollout of vaccines will accelerate on Monday with the first 530,000 doses of the newly approved Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine ready to be administered, Johnson said.
He hoped “tens of millions” would be treated over the next three months.
Millions of students have to return from their Christmas holidays on Monday, and Johnson advised parents to send their children to school in areas where rules allow it.
“I have no doubt that schools are safe and that education is a priority,” he said.
Some local authorities and unions have warned against reopening schools and threatened to take government advice. Others say that closures also have a major negative impact on students.
“We need to renew and maintain the consensus that children’s school time should be kept to a minimum,” Amanda Spielman, high school inspector, wrote in the Sunday Telegraph.