BRITAIN could be thrown into a “Tier 5” lockdown with even more harsher restrictions than the November lockdown.
Government scientists have reportedly told Boris Johnson he needs to implement stricter measures to stop virus from spiraling out of control.
There is no suggestion it would be called “Tier 5”, but the measures that are being called for go further than the current Tier 4 ones.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies has told the PM that because of the new faster-spreading variant of the virus, the R-rate would surge above 1 in January, it has been reported.
Experts have told Mr Johnson that a New Year national lockdown similar to the one in November where schools remain open will not be enough.
They recommend even stronger measures where secondary schools are shut and pubs and non-essential shops remain closed, Politco has reported.
Sage has reportedly advised that the R-rate could be kept below 1 if all schools remained closed in January.
Today, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said the Government is still set on staggering the reopening of schools as planned but warned of “trade-offs”.
He said the current plan was for primary school pupils, GCSE and A-level students and kids of key workers to return to school next week, with other secondary school students returning the following week.
He told Times Radio: “We do keep things under review, and we’ll be talking to head teachers and teachers in the next 24, 48 hours just to make sure that our plans… are really robust.”
He said: “It is our intention to make sure we can get children back to school as early as possible. But we all know that there are trade-offs.
“As a country we have decided – and I think this is the right thing to do – that we prioritise children returning to school.
“But we have a new strain and it is also the case that we have also had, albeit in a very limited way, Christmas mixing, so we do have to remain vigilant.”
On Christmas Eve, the PM refused to rule out a third lockdown.
The rapid spread of the new variant, believed to be up to 70 per cent more contagious, saw millions of Brits in London and the South East of England plunged into a Tier 4 lockdown just before Christmas.
Further areas were put into Tier 4 on Boxing Day amid fears the new strain has already spread across the country.
Speaking at a press conference to announce the UK’s post-Brexit trade deal with the EU, Mr Johnson said the new variant had led to “very considerable new pressure” – and did not another national lockdown.
The PM said: “We believe that we’re going to have to get through this tough period now with, as I have said many times, very tough restrictions, with tough tiering.
“As much as I regret that, I do think it is necessary for us to drive this virus now to stop it running out of control in January.
“We need to buy ourselves time to get the vaccine into as many arms of the elderly and vulnerable as we can.”