Winter lockdown not ruled out, but would be 'last resort' says Downing Street

By Neil Shaw

A winter lockdown has not been ruled out, a Downing Street spokesman has confirmed, but would only be used as a last resort.

The Prime Minister will lead a press conference on Tuesday afternoon to give details about the Government’s plans for dealing with coronavirus during the winter months.

Confirming the press briefing, Downing Street said Boris Johnson will be joined by chief medical adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty.

No 10 said another lockdown over winter would only be considered as a “last resort”.

Asked whether ministers would consider a winter lockdown if Covid-19 cases rise, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman told reporters: “We are in a very different place than where we were previously when other lockdowns were introduced, thanks to the success of our vaccine programme and other things like therapeutics treatments for coronavirus.

“We would only ever consider those sort of measures as a last resort and we will set out in more detail tomorrow what our approach will be should we see a significant increase in cases.

“It is thanks to the fences built up through our vaccine programme that we are in a very different position and we are not seeing the sort of substantial increases that some feared once we moved to Step 4 of our road map.”

Downing Street said it would be up to the office of Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg to decide when a vote might be held on extending powers in the Coronavirus Act.

Parliament is due to break in two weeks for its conference season recess, meaning there is limited time to hold a vote.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman, asked about vote timings, said: “We’ve already said we believe we’ll be in position to remove a number of restrictions – the Prime Minister will set that out in more detail tomorrow.

“I think that’s the right time to talk about what comes next.

“It would be a matter for the Leader’s office in terms of exact times.”

Pressed on whether the Government still intended to extend the powers, the spokesman said: “Yes. It is important to be clear that the Act itself enables some very important things such as sick pay being able to be paid under these current circumstances.

“It is right that we retain measures that are still needed and remove measures that aren’t.”

The Prime Minister was tight-lipped on whether or not he would rule out a winter lockdown, ahead of Tuesday’s announcement on Covid rule changes.

Speaking on a visit to Leicester on Monday, Boris Johnson said: “We’ve got to do everything that’s right to protect the country.

“But the way things are going at the moment we’re very confident in the steps that we’ve taken.

“I’ll be setting out a lot more tomorrow.

“I’ll be giving a full update on the plans.”

Answering questions from reporters, Boris Johnson was also pressed on whether vaccine passports could make a return if Covid infections rates and deaths continued to rise.

The Prime Minister again said he would be “setting it all out tomorrow”, but added: “What we want to do is avoid vaccine passports, if we possibly can.

“That’s the course we’re on but I think you’ve got to be prudent and you’ve got to keep things in reserve in case things change.”

Johnson said booster jabs for adults was “a good thing”.

But he also urged the “10% or so” who still have not had a single jab to “please go and get one”, also directing his plea to younger people.

“Don’t forget that the vast majority of people who are suffering seriously from Covid are unvaccinated,” he added.

“Very sadly, people who are still succumbing to Covid, dying from Covid, are the unvaccinated, so please go and get your jab.”

Answering questions from reporters, Boris Johnson was also pressed on whether vaccine passports could make a return if Covid infections rates and deaths continued to rise.

The Prime Minister again said he would be “setting it all out tomorrow”, but added: “What we want to do is avoid vaccine passports, if we possibly can.

“That’s the course we’re on but I think you’ve got to be prudent and you’ve got to keep things in reserve in case things change.”

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