Stricter controls possible to avoid second full lockdown

20 September 2020, 22:00 | Updated: 21 September 2020, 07:41

The Government is asking people to stick to current coronavirus restrictions to avoid a full lockdown
The Government is asking people to stick to current coronavirus restrictions to avoid a full lockdown. Picture: PA Images
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

The Government has issued a last-ditch plea for people to follow coronavirus restrictions as Britain faces the prospect of tougher national measures in the coming weeks.

Ministers are warning the public to stick to the rules to avoid losing control of the outbreak - or face national measures that could spell disaster for the UK's economy.

Fines of up to £10,000 will be handed out to those who refuse to self-isolate from 28 September, in a sign the Government wants to get tough on rule breakers as Britain enters a struggle to limit the spread of infection.

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Ministers are reportedly looking at a national ban on households mixing and the introduction of curfews for pubs, following the Prime Minister Boris Johnson's admission that a second wave of the virus is hitting the UK.

Professor Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer, and Sir Patrick Vallance, the Chief Scientific Adviser, will hold a briefing to update the country on the seriousness of the outbreak and explain how it could be spreading out of control at 11am today.

Read more: UK at coronavirus 'tipping point', warns Matt Hancock

Read more: Boris Johnson brings in £10,000 fines for failing to self-isolate

Professor Whitty will warn the UK is "heading in the wrong direction" as cases surge, with almost 4,000 reported in the last 24 hours.

He is expected to say: “The trend in UK is heading in the wrong direction and we are at a critical point in the pandemic.

“We are looking at the data to see how to manage the spread of the virus ahead of a very challenging winter period.”

Boris Johnson could reportedly make a speech on any further restrictions on Tuesday.

Dr Claudia Paoloni, President of the Hospital Consultant Specialist Association, says she believes a second national lockdown is ‘almost inevitable’

She told Nick Ferrari on LBC at breakfast this morning: “Every bed taken up by a covid patient now is one bed less for a cancer patient."

In the past week, almost 30,000 new cases have been reported in the UK, but the true number is expected to be higher as the NHS Test and Trace system struggles to cope with demand and labs face delays in processing tests.

It is understood tough new restrictions could be imposed on almost nine million people living in London in just days as Mayor Sadiq Khan claimed it was better to "move too early than too late" as Covid-19 cases begin to rise in the region.

Read more: Pressure on Boris Johnson to hold emergency meeting as Covid fears deepen

Read more: Businesses warn of wipeout if national lockdown returns

A spokesperson for the Mayor said: "The situation is clearly worsening. Sadiq will meet council leaders tomorrow and any London-specific measures will be recommended to ministers following that.

"The mayor wants fast action as we cannot risk a delay, as happened in March. It is better for both health and business to move too early than too late."

He is expected to officially recommend new restrictions to minister tomorrow after meeting with the leaders of all 32 borough councils.

Questions are being raised, however, about whether the UK is heading into new restrictions too early.

Oxford University Professor Carl Heneghan said today that lockdown rules should be introduced around Christmas, and that a "calm and cool" approach to tackling the virus was needs to curb the spread.

The NHS is also preparing for a tough winter, with thousands of international nurses reportedly lined up to assist hospitals as Britain heads into the winter.

Calls for a national restrictions have also angered backbench MPs, who believe the Government should be consulting parliament on its plans.

Reports suggest Graham Brady, the chair of the Conservative Party's 1922 Committee, is plotting with other senior MPs to hit out against any further constraints to people's freedoms without parliamentary scrutiny.

Business leaders have also warned that some 900,000 jobs are on the line in the hospitality industry alone, industry chiefs said, while the travel sector is also sounding alarm bells. 

Read more: Restrictions on care home visits to be imposed as part of winter plan

Read more: Thousands of international nurses 'lined up' to join NHS ahead of second wave

Englands Chief Nurse, Ruth May, outlined plans this weekend to spend up to £180 million to boost numbers so the health service can cope with a significant rise in hospital admissions in the coming months.

The country's Nightingale hospitals have also been placed on standby and the care sector briefed with the Government's so-called 'Winter Action Plan' - ensuring care homes and other healthcare settings do not become overwhelmed.