Transport Secretary: 'Still time to avert second national lockdown'

21 September 2020, 08:21

By Megan White

The Transport Secretary has said there is still time to avert a second national lockdown, adding: “We need to push down on the R-rate by restricting social contact.”

Grant Shapps told LBC’s Nick Ferrari that the UK is at a “really critical moment” in the fight against coronavirus and that further restrictions could be necessary if cases continue to rise.

Mr Shapps spoke ahead of 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.

Coronavirus LIVE: Whitty and Vallance to give key pandemic update

Professor Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer, and Sir Patrick Vallance, the Chief Scientific Adviser, will warn the UK is "heading in the wrong direction" as cases surge, with almost 4,000 reported in the last 24 hours.

Mr Shapps said: “I don’t think it’s any secret that we’re at a really critical moment, and if we don’t make sure we’re adhering to all the various different requirements – the rule of six, self-isolation quarantine where required – then we are going to end up needing to apply stronger brakes on this.

“We’ll hear this morning from Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, and Patrick Valance, who’s the chief scientific adviser.

“I spoke to them over the weekend and they will set out how our path, if we don’t break it, is similar to France and Spain’s, and we’ve seen what’s happened over there, and we’re very keen to try and arrest that route here.”

Asked if he felt we were at “last chance saloon,” Mr Shapps said we “want to avert a full lockdown” and said there was “absolutely” time to do so.

He added: “I think it’s really important that kids are able to get their education – they had six months without going into schools, I think it’s very important businesses are able to function and operate.

“But we need to allow space for all of that to happen and I think the way we do that is to push down on the R-rate by, unfortunately, restricting the social contact we have in other forms, and it’s really important that we do adhere to that otherwise we do end up in a more restrictive situation.”

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.

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.