Boris Johnson 'hopes to avoid' third lockdown but doesn't rule it out

18 December 2020, 12:38 | Updated: 18 December 2020, 13:08

Boris Johnson has not ruled out the possibility of a third national lockdown
Boris Johnson has not ruled out the possibility of a third national lockdown. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

The Prime Minister hasn't ruled out the possibility of a third national lockdown in England, but said he's "hoping" the country will be able to avoid it.

When asked about the possibility of another lockdown after Christmas, Mr Johnson said: "We’re hoping very much we’ll be able to avoid anything like that".

Speaking during a visit to Greater Manchester, Mr Johnson said the rates of infection have increased "very much" in the past few weeks.

It comes as ministers are reportedly considering bringing in Tier 4 restrictions, in which people would be told to stay at home with commuting banned, schools would stay shut for an extra week, and non-essential shops would be shut.

After 38 million people were placed into Tier 3 in England yesterday, a Whitehall official told the Times: 'There is a case for going further than Tier 3 and it is getting stronger.

'[That could mean] closure of non-essential retail, stay-at-home orders. That would have to be actively considered in conversation with the local authority.'

Mr Johnson has stuck fast to his plan to allow up to three households to create a "Christmas bubble", allowing them to socialise indoors together for five days.

But he has advised that from today, anyone forming these bubbles must limit any contact outside those households.

He tweeted: "If you are forming a Christmas Bubble, it’s vital that from today, you minimise contact with people from outside your household.

"Everyone must take personal responsibility to avoid passing the virus on to loved ones this Christmas."

His warning comes as Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing warned the relaxations of Covid rules over the festive season will lead to an "unrelenting tsunami" of cases in the new year.

Wales has deferred from England on the rules, with First Minister Mark Drakeford announcing his latest guidance - which restricts households meeting to two between 23-27 December and brings in a strict level four lockdown from 28 December to counteract the expected spread of the virus.

Level four is the highest level of restrictions in Wales, and resembles a full lockdown similar to the spring.

The Scottish government has asked for people from up to three households to only meet Christmas bubbles for one day and not stay overnight.

Northern Ireland will also bring a six-week lockdown starting from Boxing Day.

The two-household rule in Wales over the festive period will switch from guidance to law, the Welsh Government told LBC.

On Wednesday evening, the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments issued a rare joint statement stressing this "cannot be a normal Christmas" due to the pandemic.

More to follow...