BORIS Johnson has held a Cabinet meeting of his top team this morning as he considers whether to implement tougher lockdown rules to try and curb Covid case numbers.
The PM gathered his ministers for a discussion of the latest figures and impact of the national lockdown, which was announced just last Monday.
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Shops, schools and sports facilities were shut across England, with people told to stay at home once again – at least until the middle of February.
But case numbers have continued to rise – partly because of people being allowed to mix between households over Christmas, and over the new super-spreading Covid strain.
Hospitals are under significant pressure, and could be overwhelmed within a fortnight, NHS bosses have said.
Government are considering what else might be needed to stop the spread of the virus – though no changes are expected to be imminent.
Ministers want to wait to see the impact of the latest moves first before making any further decisions.
But No10 has said all strategies and restrictions remain under constant review.
Brits were last night cautioned against going for takeaway coffees — amid warnings two pals meeting up will be outlawed if people continue to “flex” the rules.
It came as:
- Policing minister Kit Malthouse admitted it was legal to get a take-away coffee as part of your exercise
- Cressida Dick backed Boris Johnson for taking a bike ride seven miles from home – but called on Government to define what "local" was
- Ministers called for all supermarkets to enforce mask rules – as Sainsbury's said it would hire security guards to do so
Boris Johnson and top Tories urged “exercise, not socialise” as the Government launched a shock and awe campaign to scare people into staying home.
The PM said as he visited a vaccination centre in the South West yesterday: "We are going to keep the rules under constant review. Where we have to tighten them, we will.
“But we have rules in place which, if properly followed, we believe can make a huge, huge difference."
He urged everyone to stay at home as much as possible to protect the NHS and save lives – and he urged everyone to consider their actions as it was such a "perilous time" for the nation.
Although he stopped short of telling Brits they shouldn't enjoy a take-away coffee in a park, he added: "It’s now that people need to focus – whether they are out shopping, whether they are buying coffee in the park or wherever it happens to be, they need to think about spreading the disease.
"Because as Chris said, one contact that you have can be a chain of transmission for this disease.
"Now is the moment of maximum vigilance, maximum observation and observance of the rules, and of course if we think things are not being properly observed then we may have to do more."
BUBBLES TO STAY
Last night Matt Hancock ruled out scrapping the support bubble rules – which allow single people living alone, single parents with kids, and those with a baby under one to join households with another.
Childcare bubbles are also still permitted.
The Health Secretary stressed the bubbles "very important" to make sure people are not left isolate during the lockdown.
But he later said if people continue to abuse rules that say two can meet up outdoors in public to exercise, then that could soon be scrapped.
He told a Downing Street press conference: “Yes, you can go and exercise in the park with one other person, but only one other person.
“And we have been seeing large groups and that is not acceptable. And you should be two metres apart from the other person.
"If there are too many people breaking this rule then we are going to have to look at it.
"But, I don’t want to do that because, for many people being able to go for a walk with a friend, that often is their only social contact.”
WEAR A MASK
Policing minister Kit Malthouse has said that all supermarkets should follow in Morrisons' footsteps to enforce the wearing of masks in stores.
When asked why he thought supermarkets have not done it so far, he told Times Radio: "I think that, understandably, following the November lockdown there was an element of release and therefore the person at the door, the sanitation station, the traffic light system, the queues outside obviously receded a bit.
"What we hope now, and I know all of them will, that they'll see their responsibility and start to put those things back in place."
When asked whether police should intervene, he said some officers have issued fines in retail settings, adding: "What we hope is the vast majority of people, or everybody, will be encouraged to do so by the shop owner."
What further restrictions could come in to stop Covid cases rising further?
- Ban on meeting other households completely – Matt Hancock said yesterday that if people abused the rule which allowed two people to meet for exercise, the Government would have to look at it again
- Cancelling support bubbles – the Government have said they won't do this
- A ban on click and collect services – this was reportedly discussed at a Covid O meeting at the weekend
- Scrapping takeaways or forcing them to do delivery only – reportedly an option being considered by Nicola Sturgeon today in Scotland
- Closing all schools and nurseries completely – this is unlikely to happen
- A curfew – some other countries have a strict curfew to force people to return home
- Cancelling house viewings – Sir Keir Starmer has called for this, which was banned in the first lockdown
- Churches, mosques and synagogues could be closed – Places of worship are currently open for individual prayer and public worship
- More face mask rules – SAGE have called for them to be considered in offices and public spaces
The climbdown came after the PM was accused of stretching the rules by going for a weekend bike ride seven miles from Downing Street.
But No10 stressed it was within the rules – and there was no definition of precisely what was "local".
Pressed on the restrictions, Mr Hancock said: “You should stay local, you should not go from one side of a country to another, potentially taking the virus with you.”
Brits have been told only to leave their home to exercise, get food or a small list of other reasons as part of the national lockdown to save lives and cut the number of Covid cases down.
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