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4 January 2021, 09:45
Will there be another lockdown in the UK after Christmas? Here's what we know...
Much of the UK has been plunged back into tough coronavirus restrictions over the festive period.
Millions of people were told to stay at home over Christmas after a sharp rise in Covid cases.
So, what has the government said about another lockdown in January? Here’s what we know…
It is unknown what will happen over the next few weeks, however schools in many areas have been told to delay opening for two weeks.
With a new strain of the virus detected, Boris Johnson has not ruled out even stricter measures across the country.
When asked whether it may be necessary to introduce tougher ‘Tier 5’ restrictions, Mr Johnson told the BBC: “It may be that we need to do things in the next few weeks that will be tougher in many parts of the country.
“I’m fully, fully reconciled to that. And I bet the people of this country are reconciled to that.”
Asked what ‘tougher’ might mean, he added: “Until the vaccine really comes on stream in a massive way, we’re fighting this virus with the same set of tools.
“I’m not going to speculate now about what they … would be, clearly, school closures, which we had to do in March, is one of those … things… It’s not something we necessarily want to do.
“What we’re doing now is using the tiering system, which is a very tough system and, alas, probably about to get tougher, to keep things under control. But we’ll review it.”
Wales is currently in a nationwide lockdown, while Scotland is facing a similar Tier 4 lockdown effective for three weeks from Boxing Day.
This comes after Mr Hancock previously said that he doesn’t expect the blanket restrictions to return.
“I very much hope not to by having a tiered system which is calibrated to be able to bring the virus under control, where that’s necessary,” he told the Health and Social Care Select Committee.
Mr Hancock said he hoped the roll-out of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine could mean that life could be back to ‘normal’ by Easter.
“After Easter, we think we will be getting back to normal," he said.
“Now, there are some things that are ‘no regrets’, right? Washing your hands more and some parts of social distancing are no-regrets things that, I think, will become commonplace.
“But those damaging social distancing interventions that have downsized, whether economic or social downsides in terms of our wellbeing, I should hope that we can lift those after Easter if these two vaccines are approved by the regulator, which of course is an independent decision for the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency).”
However, Professor Liam Smeeth, an epidemiology and public health expert at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, has since issued a warning that another circuit-breaker lockdown might be needed.
He said: "A route towards a much better situation in the UK is becoming clear.
"A further circuit breaker in January or possibly February is likely to be needed but it is realistic to hope that by March or April the vast majority of older people, care home residents, and those with severe conditions will have been immunised.
"We can then work towards wider immunisation – with ideally much of the population covered in time for next winter. Life won’t ever be the same as it was before Covid-19, but it will feel a whole lot better than now."