PRIME MINISTER Boris Johnson is standing by the Government’s local lockdown approach to curbing the resurgence in cases of Covid-19 across the country.
In a week which saw great swathes of the country – including London, Liverpool, Lancashire, Essex and Surrey - all placed under increased restrictions, within the new three-tier Covid alert system, Mr Johnson maintained that a national lockdown was not required, yet.
“These were tough discussions, difficult decisions,” he said in a Downing Street press conference held on Friday, October 16.
“No one wants to have to implement these measures which damage local businesses, curtail individual freedom and impose significant strains on people’s mental health.
“But these decisions were necessary because of the rate of increase not just of infections but also in hospitalisations and admissions to intensive care.”
He added: “Without action, there is no doubt that our NHS would soon be struggling to treat the sheer number of people seriously ill with Covid. Non-Covid treatments and surgeries would need to be cancelled in order to cope. And many more people would die.”
The battle to put Greater Manchester under the ‘Very High’ tier of Covid alert restrictions is ongoing this week – with Mayor Andy Burnham maintaining the city would not accept the move unless more Government funding was provided to support the region.
As lockdown announcements were made regionally over the past week, critics have claimed that a national lockdown would stand a better chance of bringing down the rate of coronavirus transmission, which has seen a surge in recent weeks.
Conor McGinn, the MP for St Helens North, which is within the Liverpool City Region that went under ‘Very High’ lockdown restrictions on October 14, has called for the entire country to “share the pain”.
The Armagh native, whose constituents now find themselves under restrictions barring households mixing and forcing all bars, restaurants, gyms, leisure centres, casinos and betting shops to close, claimed: “It is time that everybody shared in the pain, in a short break, a national lockdown for two weeks to get this under control.”
Mr Johnson has rejected such calls.
“Some have argued that we should introduce a national lockdown instead of targeted local action and I disagree,” he said last week.
“Closing businesses in Cornwall, where transmission is low, will not cut transmission in Manchester,” he added.
“So while I cannot rule anything out, if at all possible I want to avoid another national lockdown, with the damaging health, economic and social effects it would have.”
He explained: “Alongside our local strategy we have been working throughout to find other ways to suppress this virus.
“We are backing our brilliant scientists leading the global effort to find a safe and effective vaccine.
“We have also secured early access to over 350 million vaccine doses through a portfolio of promising new vaccines to ensure we are in the best place, and we are taking every possible step to ensure we can move as quickly as possible to deploy a vaccine if and when one is found to work.”