Will UK lockdown be extended after December 2?

21 November 2020, 16:49 | Updated: 21 November 2020, 23:23

The Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has also voiced concern about lifting lockdown
The Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has also voiced concern about lifting lockdown. Picture: PA

By Matt Drake

The Prime Minister has insisted he will end the current lockdown on December 2, but is it guaranteed?

England's four-week lockdown is set to come to an end on Wednesday, December 2.

But Northern Ireland already announced it was extending it's so-called "firebreaker" lockdown by another two weeks yesterday and some Government ministers have indicated it is too early to say whether it will be extended or not.

Will Boris Johnson extend lockdown?

The Prime Minister has confirmed that his 'Covid winter plan' will come into force when lockdown ends on December 2.

The plan is expected to place more areas of England into the tough tiers.

And while some local measures will be the same as those in the previous system, some tiers will be strengthened to safeguard the gains made during the national lockdown.

Mr Johnson said earlier this month: "I want to apologise to all of you who have been dealing with the frustrations and the nightmare of the Covid world. Believe me we will end these autumn measures on 2 December when they expire.”

But Matt Hancock said on Monday that it was "too early" to say whether lockdown will end on December 2.

Saying: "We’ve seen in the last week that there is still a very high number of cases but we do absolutely want to come out of this national lockdown.

“That is our goal, everybody has a part to play in making that happen of course, following the social distancing rules and isolating when you need to, which is the critical thing.”

The Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has also voiced concern about the festive period.

In a report released last Friday, they said: "The longer-term outlook depends on both the nature of [restrictions] that are implemented in England after 2 December and policies over the festive period.

“If England returns to the same application of the tiering system in place before 5 November, then transmission will return to the same rate of increase as today.”

Read more: Vaccine hope: Covid jabs for all of UK by Spring

What happens if lockdown ends?

England will enter a strengthened three-tiered system of local restrictions when the national lockdown ends on December 2.

Boris Johnson will detail his plan for winter, including details on how families can see their loved ones at Christmas, to MPs on Monday.

The "Covid winter plan" is expected to place more areas into the higher tiers to keep the virus under control to ensure further restrictions are not needed, No 10 said.

And while some local measures will be the same as those in the previous system, some tiers will be strengthened to safeguard the gains made during the national lockdown.

Some people, such as Public Health England’s Dr Susan Hopkins, are calling for even tougher measures to be in place to keep infection rates down but decisions are likely to be made towards the end of lockdown.

Labour has called on the Government not to let England return to the "shambles" seen before the current national lockdown.

Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds said there were 11 days until the lockdown was due to lift on December 2, and no word from Government on what was going to happen next.

She added that there needed to be clarity about what economic support measures will accompany different types of restrictions after the lockdown ends.

Read more: UK first to trial AstraZeneca 'antibody cocktail' aimed at non-vaccine patients

What about a vaccine?

Mr Hancock said he is increasingly hopeful of some kind of normality by spring, as he confirmed the UK's health regulator is assessing a coronavirus vaccine which could potentially be rolled out next month.

Referring to the "ray of light" that a vaccine may bring, he confirmed he had formally asked the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to assess the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and that, if approved, a jab could be rolled out from December.

Meanwhile, the UK will be the first country to begin clinical trials of a new coronavirus antibody treatment developed by drugs giant AstraZeneca aimed at people with a weakened immune system who cannot be vaccinated.

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