Boris Johnson to set out tougher new Covid-19 measures in address to the nation

4 January 2021, 10:54 | Updated: 4 January 2021, 20:12

Boris Johnson to address the nation
Boris Johnson to address the nation. Picture: 10 Downing Street

By Asher McShane

Boris Johnson will set out emergency measures to control the spread of coronavirus in an address to the nation on Monday amid concerns the NHS risks being overwhelmed.

The Prime Minister will make a televised address at 8pm on Monday after coming under intense pressure to announce a new national lockdown.

Parliament will be recalled on Wednesday and Downing Street said that the move was in response to the "rapidly escalating" numbers of infections following the emergence of the new variant.

It came as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced a new national lockdown in Scotland, starting at midnight tonight.

Read more: More Tier 3 areas could move to Tier 4, Health Secretary suggests to LBC

Government sources indicated the UK's chief medical officers have agreed to raise the Covid-19 alert level to five - its highest - meaning "transmission is high or rising exponentially" and "there is a material risk of healthcare services being overwhelmed".

The alert level is based on a recommendation by the Joint Biosecurity Centre to the chief medical officers.

The latest figures showed a further 407 people have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Monday and there were a record 58,784 more lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.

A No 10 spokesman said: "The spread of the new variant of Covid-19 has led to rapidly escalating case numbers across the country.

"The Prime Minister is clear that further steps must now be taken to arrest this rise and to protect the NHS and save lives."

Earlier on Monday, speaking during a visit to Chase Farm Hospital in north London to meet some of the first people to receive the Oxford vaccine, Mr Johnson said there were "tough, tough" weeks to come.

He added: "If you look at the numbers there's no question we will have to take tougher measures and we will be announcing those in due course."

"We will do everything we can to keep the virus under control and people should be in no doubt that the Government will do everything that's necessary.

"But I must stress at this critical moment it is so vital that people keep disciplined."

The UK has seen over 50,000 new coroanvirus cases each day for the past six days.

The Prime Minister said huge numbers of people were following the guidance and he recognised some were becoming frustrated.

He added: "I think the public have been fantastic in the way they have tried to follow the guidance."

Earlier this morning, Health Secretary Matt Hancock suggested that many areas of England in Tier 3 would have to be moved to Tier 4.

Speaking on Nick Ferrari's morning show, the health secretary said the current Tier system will soon be reassessed following increasing Covid-19 infections across England.

"There are some parts of the country, currently in Tier 3, where the rates are going up fast and we'll review that soon," Mr Hancock said.

Asked whether he agreed with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer that another immediate national lockdown was necessary, the minister told LBC that extra measures are "likely".

"We can see that the number of cases is rising sharply and the prime minister has clearly said, and he said it yesterday, it's likely we're going to need some more measures," he told Nick.

The latest data shows a 33% rise in the number of confirmed coronavirus patients in hospital in England between Christmas Day and January 2. Mr Hancock also warned there would be "some very difficult weeks" to come.

Mr Johnson is under pressure from unions in the education sector to order a "pause" in a return to the classroom until the safety of staff and pupils can be guaranteed.

In a joint statement, the GMB, NAHT, NASUWT, NEU, Unison and Unite unions said there was a "serious risk" of staff falling ill while the rate of infection was so high.

"The Government's chaotic handling of the opening of schools has caused confusion for teachers, school staff and parents alike," they said.

"Bringing all pupils back into classrooms while the rate of infection is so high is exposing education sector workers to serious risk of ill-health and could fuel the pandemic."

In another development today, Brian Pinker, 82, became the first person in the UK outside of trials to receive the new Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine.

Stephen Powis, national medical director of NHS England, described the rollout of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine as "another turning point in our way out of this pandemic".

Dialysis patient Mr Pinker received his jab at 7.30am on Monday from nurse Sam Foster at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust's Churchill Hospital.

Prof Powis said the vaccine will be delivered in around 100 hospital hubs and 700 centres in GP practices and in the community by the end of the week, with plans to expand as more supplies become available.