Boris Johnson will hold a press conference this afternoon to discuss new measures to tackle the coronavirus crisis.
The Prime Minister will be joined by chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty for the Downing Street briefing at 4pm, following a meeting of his Cabinet earlier in the afternoon.
It comes amid reports the country could be heading towards a second national lockdown as early as next week amid concerns hospitals across England are on the verge of being overwhelmed.
Mr Johnson has so far resisted calls to implement a nationwide ‘circuit-breaker’ lockdown, opting instead for localised controls under the tier system.
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But reports on Saturday suggest the PM is now considering closing everything except essential shops and education settings for a month from Wednesday in order to try and contain spiralling infections.
Members of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) have backed the introduction of more stringent measures.
Professor Sir Jeremy Farrar said the consequences of sticking with the current ‘insufficient’ restrictions would be ‘much worse’ than going for a second lockdown.
The director of the Wellcome Trust said: ‘The sooner we act, the sooner we can start to recover. It will be a very difficult few weeks now and no one can underestimate the toll that will take on people.
‘But the consequences of sticking with the current insufficient restrictions would have been much worse.’
Sage member Professor Calum Semple told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘For the naysayers that don’t believe in a second wave, there is a second wave.
‘And, unlike the first wave, where we had a national lockdown which protected huge swathes of society, this outbreak is now running riot across all age groups.’
Professor John Edmunds said the only way to have a ‘relatively safe’ Christmas is to take ‘stringent’ action now to bring the incidence of the virus ‘right down’.
It comes after a senior Government scientific adviser said it is ‘definitely too late to think that the two-week circuit-breaker on its own will sort this out’.
They added: ‘It would bring it down a bit but it wouldn’t be enough to bring (the R value) right down. A two-week circuit-breaker would have an effect but now almost certainly it would need to go on for longer to have a significant effect.’
The adviser said the R number needs to be brought below one in many places to ‘get it down to levels that don’t run the risk of breaching health service capacity’, while in other regions the growth needs to flatten for that to happen.
The ‘longer you leave it’, they warned, ‘the more difficult it is to turn this around’.
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