Total national lockdown likely by end of January, warns SAGE doc but gov rules out Tier 5 for now

A NATIONAL lockdown by the end of January is likely, a SAGE doctor has warned this morning.

It comes after the Government ruled out a Tier 5 lockdown for now, which could see all schools closed in a further step to stop the mutant Covid spread.

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Doctor Mike Tildesley told BBC Radio 4: "Cases are rising in a really concerning way, so I suspect that unfortunately we will see a ramping-up even further of restrictions, probably more of the country being in Tier 4 or ultimately probably a national lockdown before we get to the end of January."

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said yesterday he won't introduce Tier 5 – despite scientists and ministers piling on the pressure for a tougher lockdown.

He instead urged Brits to follow the rules in areas of high infection rates as hospitals face unprecedented demand for beds amid an increase in coronavirus cases.

Asked whether the Government is considering a full lockdown, Gavin Williamson told the Today programme: "We're obviously creating a great amount of space for the whole public health body in terms of dealing with this pandemic.

"Because, with children's return to secondary schools being pushed back that bit further, coupled with this mass testing regime, we believe we are putting in the actions needed for schools to be able to be safely returned but also play our part in beating this virus."

He later told Sky News: "We're taking the absolute right approach to pursue the tiering system.

"This is a robust approach, so I'm confident that we won't be moving into a national lockdown situation because the tiering structure is the right place to be." 

Government scientists have reportedly told Boris Johnson he needs to implement stricter measures to stop the virus from spiralling out of control as hospitals sit on the brink of being overwhelmed.

It comes as:

  • The Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine was approved by regulators yesterday- with a million doses a week to be rolled out from next week
  • Ministers said they would prioritise giving everyone the first jab and give the second within 12 weeks
  • 50,000 cases and more than 900 deaths were recorded – the highest death figure since April
  • A major incident was declared in Essex over Covid as hospitals struggle to cope with demand
  • 20million more plunged into Tier 4 today

Health authorities have warned more restrictions may need to be put in place after Brits not in Tier 4 areas were allowed to mingle for Christmas Day.

And the PM has not ruled out a third national lockdown as hospital patient numbers rise above the April peak while the death toll has passed 70,000.

It was announced yesterday millions of schoolkids in the worst-hit Covid areas will stay home for at least an extra two weeks after the Christmas holidays.

Many people were left scrabbling around trying to find the list to see if their kids would be back at school or not – with some furious at the differences in their local area.

But, in nearly 50 Tier 4 areas where infection rates are highest, ALL schools will have to close, including primaries, it was confirmed tonight.

That includes most of London, Essex, Kent, and a handful of areas in Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and East Sussex – but key workers and vulnerable pupils can still attend.

This is a robust approach, so I'm confident that we won't be moving into a national lockdown situation because the tiering structure is the right place to be.

These will stay closed until at least January 18 – but will be reviewed every two weeks.

Elsewhere across England – in Tiers 1, 2 and 3 and some lesser-hit Tier 4 areas – primary schools will return on January 4 as planned.

The Education Secretary said he is "absolutely confident" that schools will return as per the new staggered timetable.

He said: "We are absolutely confident that all schools are returning. You're going to see over 85% of primary schools returning on Monday morning, you're going to be seeing exam cohorts going back right across the country on January 11."

Asked if he can guarantee that, Mr Williamson said: "We are absolutely confident that is what is going to happen."

The new mutant strain of coronavirus has caused most of the country to be plunged into Tier 4.

It is more infectious and has sparked a rapid rise in cases in the past few weeks.

Referring to the new tier measures in light of the variation, Mr Johnson said last night: "At this critical moment, with the prospect of freedom within reach, we've got to redouble our efforts to contain the virus.

"No-one regrets these measures more bitterly than I do, but we must take firm action now."

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