The opposition Labour and experts on Wednesday called for another UK-wide lockdown following advice that the new three-tier alert system announced by the government may not effectively suppress the recent surge in new Covid-19 cases.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson resisted the calls after Labour leader Keir Starmer demanded the second lockdown. Expert advice by the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) had favoured a short ‘circuit-breaker’ as early as September 21.
As the new three-tier system of alerts and curbs came into effect in England on Wednesday, Northern Ireland announced partial lockdown that includes closure of schools and business establishment for a month.
Calling for the second lockdown, Starmer said: “We’re at a decisive moment in the fight against coronavirus. The figures are stark and I’m afraid they’re all heading in the wrong direction. The number of Covid cases has quadrupled in the last three weeks.”
“Cases may be doubling as quickly as every 7-8 days. There are now more people in hospital with Covid than on 23 March when we went into national lockdown. And while the number of cases is rising more sharply in some areas it is increasing across all regions of the UK and in all age groups.”
“If we don’t (have another lockdown), we could sleep-walk into a long and bleak winter. The choice is now for the Prime Minister to make. I urge him to do so”, he added.
Johnson responded at Prime Minister’s Question Time in the House of Commons that he did not rule out taking further measures but said the new system with more say to local leaders will be effective in suppressing the virus, which is at different levels in different parts of the UK.
As of Tuesday evening, the UK had recorded 17,234 cases – more than three times the day-peaks of April and May – and 143 deaths. Overall, the UK has recorded 57,690 deaths and 634,920 cases, according to figures based on hospitals and care-homes.
The UK’s first national lockdown for three weeks was announced on March 23.