Chris Whitty says lockdown could get TOUGHER and he’s ‘not confident’ Tier Three alone can rein in coronavirus as ministers try to ‘balance’ bringing R down with harming economy
- Prime Minister announced new ‘traffic light’ local lockdowns on Monday
- Prof Chris Whitty said he was ‘not confident’ the rules went far enough
- Chief medical officer said that councils will need to take more aggressive steps
The chief medical officer last night admitted he was ‘not confident’ that Boris Johnson’s three-tiered lockdown measures went far enough.
The Prime Minister announced that Liverpool will be the first ‘very high risk’ sector to have the Tier Three measures imposed – meaning pubs are shut and households banned from mixing.
But Prof Chris Whitty said that this was ‘an absolute base’ of rules that should be implemented, as the UK racked up another 13,972 Covid cases on Monday – up 11 percent on last Monday.
Prof Whitty said: ‘We’re going to have to do more, that’s the whole point of what the Prime Minister has just announced, and probably in some areas significantly more.’
Britain’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty (pictured) last night warned that Boris Johnson’s new Tier Three lockdown measures do not go far enough and councils would need to impose their own restrictions to bring down the infection rate
Prime Minister Boris Johnson listens as Britain’s Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Whitty speaks during a virtual press conference inside 10 Downing Street in central London on Monday evening
He added: ‘The idea that we can do this without causing harm is an illusion. It is a balancing act between two harms: a harm for society and the economy on the one hand and a harm for health on the other hand.’
Mr Johnson, addressing the nation alongside Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Prof Whitty, said the options were to ‘let the virus rip’ or ‘shatter’ the economy.
A vast swathe of the country including Greater Manchester, the West Midlands and the North East are facing Tier Two curbs which crackdown on socialising between households and a total of 22 million in England are expected to be covered by the top two tiers after Tuesday.
Mr Johnson said that the rising figures in these areas were ‘flashing at us like dashboard warnings in a passenger jet and we must act now,’ but he ruled out the ‘extreme route’ of a complete national lockdown ‘right now.’
However, Prof Whitty risked undermining the PM’s delicately calibrated message by cautioning that the ‘professional view’ was that basic measures in Tier Three ‘will not be sufficient’ to control the virus.
He urged local leaders to use the ‘flexibility’ in the rules to beef up the restrictions.
Prof Whitty said: ‘I am not confident, and nor is anybody confident, that the Tier 3 proposals for [areas with] the highest rates – if you did the absolute base case and nothing more – would be enough to get on top of it, and that is why there is a lot of flexibility in the Tier 3 level for local authorities… to actually go up that range so they can do significantly more than the absolute base.’
The Government sought to reassure people living in high risk sectors that their status would be reviewed on a monthly basis and nothing was indefinite.
Prof Whitty looked further down the line: ‘I am extremely confident that when we go into next winter we will do so in a remarkably better place.’
But he praised people’s efforts – such as people having fewer contacts and businesses trying to limit transmission by becoming Covid-secure, adding: ‘If we had not been doing all the things that everybody is currently doing… the rates that we’re seeing in these graphs would be substantially higher.
‘So what people are doing now are significantly reducing the rates compared to where they would have been.
‘But what we can see is that we need to go further, or these rates will continue inexorably to rise.’
He added: ‘My experience as a doctor has been that people in Britain actually do not tend to get scared.
‘What they want is people to get them very straight news and know the worst.
‘And then discuss what we should do, and then get on a workout a plan for how to do it.’
He said he was ‘confident’ that the nation would get through the crisis but added: ‘It is a balancing act between two harms – harm for society and the economy on the one hand, and harm for health.
‘Getting this right is critical and we’re all trying to find the balance the middle – the really narrow path between these two harms on either side, accepting whatever we do is not going to be easy.’
He added: ‘I cannot predict, and no one can predict what are the combinations of treatments vaccines diagnostics and other interventions that we will have available to us.
‘But I am extremely confident that when we go into next winter we will do so in a remarkably better place.’