Britons could be facing a second national lockdown if the latest package of measures fail to work, the foreign secretary has admitted.
Dominic Raab warned that if the measures which come into effect from tomorrow fail to slow the spread of the virus, No 10 will be forced to order the nation to stay at home again.
The new restrictions will see pubs, bars and restaurants closing by 10pm, the number of people permitted at weddings will be reduced to 15, and face coverings will be compulsory for workers in retail and hospitality. Fines for those who do not wear face masks or break the ‘rule of six’ will now double to £200.
Raab told Sky News on Wednesday morning: ‘We’ve always said we’ve got a sort of repository of measures in the arsenal to take. I don’t think we would speculate about what further could be done.
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‘But the reality is they will be more intrusive or we could end up in a national lockdown. That is what we want to avoid.’
Boris Johnson said he was ‘fervently’ against locking down the country due to the effect it would have on the already hard-hit economy.
But if the latest efforts do not bring the R rate down, his administration will ‘deploy greater fire power, with significantly greater restrictions’.
The foreign secretary said if ‘everyone plays by the rules’ then a lockdown may not be needed at Christmas but warned that a ‘small minority could blow it for everyone else’.
He said: ‘Let’s hope that we can get through the winter months if we take these measures and if everyone plays by the rules, and we go into Christmas not needing to go into that national lockdown with all the impact on society and families but also the damage it would do to businesses.’
Raab insisted the Government’s approach to tackling the virus was ‘focused, balanced and proportionate’ and defended the hospitality curfew, despite figures suggesting just 5% of coronavirus cases are linked to pubs, bars and restaurants.
‘We know that in bars and restaurants, particularly after people have had a few drinks, as you go into the later hours of the evening, that there’s a risk that the compliance with the guidance ebbs a little bit,’ he said.
‘So we’re taking this measure, we’re confident based on the evidence that we’ve got domestically and internationally that it’s one element of those that we need to make.’
His comments echo reports that the PM’s chief medical officer warned Johnson that tighter restrictions will be needed during the winter months.
Professor Chris Whitty is said to have advised the prime minister to follow Scotland’s lead by banning the mixing of households if the latest measures don’t help slow the spread of the virus.
Scotland’s restrictions will come into effect today. Northern Ireland has also banned home visits.
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