Boris Johnson to hold Saturday press conference as pressure mounts over rising coronavirus cases
- Credit: PA
Boris Johnson is set to hold a cabinet call and will later hold a press conference with the chief medical officer Chris Whitty and the chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.
The prime minister is under growing pressure to further tighten coronavirus rules across England amid fears a new variant is accelerating the spread of the disease.
Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt warned the situation was on a “knife-edge” with infections rising and hospital admissions on the increase.
The prime minister held an unscheduled meeting on Friday evening to discuss the latest evidence about the mutant strain amid “growing concern” in No 10.
Earlier, he refused to rule out the prospect of a third national lockdown for England if infection rates continue to grow – a move he has previously been deeply reluctant to contemplate.
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Wales and Northern Ireland have already announced fresh lockdowns once Christmas is over while the Scottish Government has said the option “remains on the table”.
Much of the latest focus is on the South and East of England where the new variant is thought to be most prevalent.
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It follows latest figures from the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) showed the R number for the UK was estimated to have risen to between 1.1 and 1.2 – which means the disease is growing again.
At the same time, there are concerns about a possible upward spike in cases as rules on households mixing are relaxed over the Christmas period.
Hunt, who now chairs the Commons Health and Social Care Committee, said that if the prime minister did not want to change the regulations, he should at least consider issuing stricter guidance.
He said the prospects of a new year lockdown in England were on a “knife-edge”.
“It is a very difficult, finely-balanced judgment. The biggest worry is what happens indoor in family gatherings and that’s where the risks do increase,” he told the BBC Radio 4 programme.
“I think they can be clearer about what is and isn’t advisable because it would be an enormous tragedy if we had a spike in deaths at the end of January/February because we took our foot off the pedal this close to having a vaccine.”
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