PM Hopes to Avoid National Lockdown as R Rises

December 18, 2020 Updated: December 19, 2020

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday that he hopes to avoid another national lockdown in England after Christmas, but didn’t rule out the possibility.

His comment came as the UK’s CCP virus reproduction number (R) crept back up to between 1.1 and 1.2, and eight local authorities in the East and South East of England are going into the highest tier of England’s CCP virus alert system from Saturday.

Speaking to reporters from a training centre in Bolton, Manchester, the PM told reporters that his cabinet is obviously “hoping very much” to avoid another national lockdown.

“But the reality is that the rates of infection have increased very much in the last few weeks,” he added.

Johnson urged people not to take full advantage of the relaxation of the  CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus restrictions over the Christmas period, a message he and other ministers said repeatedly.

“So what we’re saying to people now over this Christmas period is, you know, think of those rules about the three households that you can bubble up with, the five days. That is very much a maximum. That’s not a target people should aim for,” he said.

Home Secretary Priti Patel had also urged people on Thursday to minimise travel and meeting-ups during Christmas.

Last month, England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland reached an agreement to relax CCP virus restrictions for Christmas over the five-day period from Dec. 23 to Dec. 27.

During the five days, three households can form a “Christmas bubble” to meet in private homes and gardens, places of worship, or public outdoor spaces; travelling across different tiers and nations to meet with your Christmas bubble will also be allowed.

But as London and some other areas were moved into the highest tier of restrictions this week, some doctors criticised the plan as a “rash decision” that will “cost many lives.”

Looking at the latest data from across the UK with the devolved administrations, Johnson said on Wednesday, they decided that the overall situation was “worse and more challenging” than the governments had hoped when they made the rules for Christmas.

Johnson said there was “unanimous agreement” across all the UK’s regional governments, that the existing plan should not be changed, because “we don’t want to criminalise people’s long-made plans.”

“But we do think it’s absolutely vital that people should at this very, very tricky time exercise a high degree of personal responsibility, especially when they come into contact with elderly people,” he said.

Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland

Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford announced on Wednesday that entire Wales is moving to Level 4 after Christmas—the highest of its four-level alert system with restrictions “equivalent to the firebreak regulations or lockdown.”

Scotland currently has a five-level alert system in place. Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, and East Lothian moved from Level 2 to Level 3 at 6 p.m. on Friday. Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said the option for a post-Christmas lockdown “remains on the table.”

Northern Ireland will see a six-week lockdown introduced from Boxing day, 15 days after it emerged from the previous two-week circuit-breaker lockdown.

R0 number Increases

Also on Friday, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) revised the UK’s CCP virus reproduction number (R) to between 1.1 and 1.2, meaning on average every 10 people infected will infect between 11 and 12 other people.

The R number for England, South East England, and London are all estimated to be between 1.1 and 1.3, and the number for East of England is estimated to be between 1.2 and 1.4.

Alexander Zhang and The Associated Press contributed to this report.