UK prime minister Boris Johnson has warned of possible tougher coronavirus restrictions in England as infections continue to rise.
Speaking in an interview with BBC’s Andrew Marr, Johnson said that he was “fully reconciled” to the prospect of tighter measures on the horizon.
"It may be that we need to do things in the next few weeks that may be tougher. I'm fully reconciled to that. I think the whole country is fully reconciled to that," he said.
Britain recorded a further 57,725 of new coronavirus cases on Saturday, the fifth day running that it has topped 50,000, and another 445 deaths.
Make UK, which represents the manufacturing sector doesn’t expect further restrictions to “have much impact” having already “worked through the toughest initial lockdown.”
The group said that the sector “has been operating fully since the start of the pandemic” and that manufacturing was the first to transition to safe working practices.
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer has called for a new national lockdown in England within 24 hours, saying that the coronavirus is “clearly out of control.”
The virus is clearly out of control.
It’s not good enough for the Prime Minister to hint at further restrictions at unspecified times and then do nothing.
He must put national restrictions in place within the next 24 hours.
No more dither, no more delay.
— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) January 3, 2021
It comes as Johnson faces pressure to keep all schools in England closed when the new term starts. But, the PM insisted “education was a priority” and urged parents to send their children to school on Monday in areas where primary schools are open.
The majority of primary schools in England are set to open on Monday. This will be followed by a staggered start for secondary schools a week later, with GCSE and A-level pupils due to return first.
But, teaching unions and some councils across the country have expressed concerns over the reopening of schools.
The National Education Union (NEU) has called for all primary schools to remain closed for at least two weeks following the Christmas holiday as the new strain affects children more than the coronavirus did before.
The PM also said that the UK plans to vaccinate tens of millions in the next three months, as a way out of the restrictions.
Speaking on speeding up the system to enable retired doctors to help with vaccination efforts, he said that health secretary Matt Hancock is taking steps to get rid of the forms which have to be filled out by retired doctors before they can help. He called the forms as “absurd” and “pointless bureaucracy.”
On Saturday, batches of the newly approved COVID-19 vaccine from Oxford University and AstraZeneca (AZN.L) arrived at hospitals ahead of the jab's rollout in Britain on Monday.
But, German startup, BioNTech (BNTX) — which has been at the forefront of the vaccine race — warned that there would be gaps in the supply of its vaccines until others are rolled out, as it continues to work with partner Pfizer (PFE) to boost production.
On Saturday, UK outlined further steps to help hauliers get tested for coronavirus before they travel to Kent or any port heading to France, in fresh efforts to reduce disruption for drivers as they carry goods across the Channel.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced that 10 new testing locations across the country will be created, with a further 10 opening on Sunday (3 January) and more being added next week.
The government is also offering to help any business set up a testing centre at its own premises to ensure trucks heading for France depart “COVID ready.”
Despite the whirlwind year, which saw the UK economy enter recession in the second quarter, private sector economists expect the UK GDP to expand by an average of 5.4% next year, according to forecasts compiled by the Treasury. That would mark the biggest leap forward for the economy in modern history.
The Bank of England is even more bullish, forecasting growth of 7.25% in 2021.
Forecasters believe the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines will allow everyday life — and the economy — to get back to something like normal. That will allow GDP to rapidly bounce back, a little like taking the hand break off a car and rolling down hill.
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