Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has acknowledged that coronavirus rates are in a “bad place in all parts of the country” but has said the government does not want a second national lockdown.
He said the government is taking advice from the scientists “on an almost daily basis” but that there is no plan to move on from the localised tiered approach.
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It comes as discussions are being held with West Yorkshire and Leeds over a possible move up to Tier 3 as cases there rise further.
Researchers from Imperial College London have said the existing measures to control the virus in England aren’t working, with an estimated 96,000 people a day being infected.
But Mr Jenrick told Kay Burley “it is our very firm view” that a national lockdown, or “circuit-breaker”, is not the right measure.
He told Sky News: “We don’t want to create a second national lockdown. We know that has some effect on bearing down on the virus but we also know it’s immensely disruptive in other regards to people’s lives and livelihoods and broader health and wellbeing, so we will do everything we can to avoid that situation.”
Mr Jenrick said the new lockdowns in other European nations, including France, will have “long-term scarring effects” on people.
He said: “At the moment it is our very firm view that that is not the right approach for the country, it is not a short-term measure, it is likely to be for a number of weeks.
“If it succeeded it is likely then needed to be repeated regularly – you can’t have a stop-start country where businesses are closing, people are losing their jobs, then they are having to restart again, the harm to people’s mental health and broader wellbeing, I think, would be immense.”
Meanwhile, the Government is reportedly considering the rapid unrolling of saliva-based coronavirus kits in a bid to test up to 10% of England’s population every week.
According to the Guardian, NHS Test and Trace is stepping up its efforts to meet the targets set out in the government’s Operation Moonshot plans announced last month.
The testing programme would focus on regions under the highest level of restrictions, and would mark a significant increase on current capacity of 2.1 million conventional nose and throat swabs a week.
The leaked letter comes as the latest Test and Trace figures are due to be released later, a source of criticism for the government in recent weeks.
Last week’s figures revealed just 59.6% of the proportion of close contacts of people who tested positive were reached – the lowest weekly percentage since the programme began.
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