The government’s strategy of dividing the country into tiers to deal with local coronavirus flare-ups risks putting the nation into lockdown over Christmas, a Labour councillor has said.
Councillor Kieron Williams, the Labour and Co-operative leader of Southwark Council in London, said more drastic action was needed immediately to stem the recent large surge in cases and prevent a further national lockdown in the future.
Williams called for a “circuit breaker” lockdown, and accused the government of failing to listen to scientific advice.
“With positive cases rising at worrying speed in Southwark and across London, I’m calling on the government to urgently implement a circuit breaker,” he said.
“It’s imperative that we follow scientific advice without delay, or we will be risking people’s health. There is no way to dress up the facts here – we are at a critical point and without immediate action, people in Southwark will needlessly die.
“I urge the government to follow Sage’s [Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies] advice and implement a circuit breaker this month.
“I know what a worrying time this is for our residents and businesses, but a short period of tighter restrictions could be less painful to the local economy and to families than something which essentially draws the process out for longer and risks future lockdown over Christmas as cases continue to rise.”
Williams’s plea echoed that of Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer who also called on the government to implement a “circuit breaker” lockdown lasting for two or three weeks.
Read more: Keir Starmer demands 2-3 week 'circuit breaker' national lockdown across England – 'We must act now'
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Starmer cited Sage advice that a circuit breaker could set back the virus by 28 days.
He went on: “Introducing these kind of restrictions is not something anyone wants to do. This was not inevitable. But it is now necessary if we are to protect the NHS, fix testing and get control of the virus.
“I also want to say this directly to the PM. You know that the science backs this approach. You know that the restrictions you’re introducing won’t be enough.
“You know that a circuit-break is needed now to get this virus under control. You can’t keep delaying this and come back to the House of Commons every few weeks with another plan that won’t work.”
It comes after Boris Johnson promised on Monday to do his “absolute best” to give the country a normal Christmas this year.
Announcing the new three-tier system, the prime minister said the possibility of relaxed social distancing measures over the festive period would depend on the country's success in lowering the number of coronavirus cases.
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"All I can say to millions who are wondering the same question is that we will do our absolute best to try to make sure we get life back to as close as possible for Christmas," he said.
"But that is going to depend I'm afraid on our success in getting this virus down, and our ability as a country to follow through on the package of measures.
"I have said it before and I will say it again but it will mean in those local areas that we talked about, we are not only going to intensify the measures but we are going to have to enforce generally the social distancing, the rules, the guidance – hands, face, space.”
"Get a test if you have symptoms, self isolate if you are contacted by NHS Test and Trace.
"All that basic stuff is essential if we are going to come out of this and allow people to have anything like a normal Christmas."