Liverpool’s council leaders today called for a third national lockdown to contain the new ‘mutant’ strain of Covid and prevent a ‘catastrophe’.
The city’s acting mayor, Wendy Simon, and the Labour-run city council’s cabinet say the speed of the rise in coronavirus cases have reached ‘alarming levels’ and urgent action is now required to save lives and the NHS.
The new ‘mutant’ strain of Covid is thought to have a higher rate of transmission and is most prevalent in London and the South East, where health bosses say hospitals have become stretched.
It is believed the strain is spreading from south to north, leading to increasing pressure on the NHS.
Cases in Liverpool have almost trebled in the past two weeks to 350 per 100,000, despite the city leading on the pilot for community testing which led to it being the first city to be moved from Tier 3 down to Tier 2.
The call for a new lockdown was made in a statement from Cllr Wendy Simon and Cabinet Member for Public Health Cllr Paul Brant.
The current mayor of the city, Joe Anderson, is on police bail on suspicion of conspiracy to commit bribery and witness intimidation.
The statement said: ‘It is clear that the country is now at a crossroads with Covid-19. The stark reality is that today this virulent new strain of the virus is very much on the rise and we need to act now to prevent a crisis that will unleash even more pain and anguish.’
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said the Government would ‘not hesitate to take actions necessary to protect local communities’.
It comes as England edges close towards a blanket shutdown after government efforts to reopen schools were thrown into disarray by Left-wing councils and teaching unions.
In other coronavirus developments:
- Ofsted boss Amanda Spielman said children’s learning cannot be ‘furloughed’;
- Experts leading the UK vaccination programme defended the decision to extend the gap between the two doses, insisting it is ‘the way we save lives’;
- Health bosses last night insisted urgent cancer operations in London will not be scrapped to ease the strain on hospitals inundated with Covid patients;
- Labour’s shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens is being treated in hospital for coronavirus, her aides announced last night;
- Another 57,725 had positive test results and recorded 445 deaths yesterday;
- A London children’s hospital consultant blasted ‘irresponsible’ nurse who gave a BBC interview claiming her hospital has a ‘whole ward of children’ with Covid;
- Young non-voting women are most likely to turn down a Covid vaccine if it were available tomorrow, the Find Out Now poll has found.
Liverpool’s acting mayor Wendy Simons called for a third national coronavirus lockdown today
Cases in Liverpool have almost trebled in the past two weeks to 350 per 100,000, despite the city successfully leading on the national pilot for community testing which led to it being the first city to be taken out of Tier 3 and into Tier 2, according to official figures
Two thirds of England’s population is now in Tier 4, with the remainder living in Tier 3 lockdowns. Only the Isles of Scilly, off the coast of Cornwall, is in the looser Tier 2
The UK recorded a record 57,725 Covid-19 cases yesterday, the most since the pandemic began and the fifth day daily cases surpassed 50,000. The country also saw 445 deaths
The Liverpool councillors said: ‘We need the government to listen to those at the frontline, both in our hospitals and frontline services.
‘We as a nation can cope with a lockdown. We have before and we can again. The quicker we move into one now, the more lives will be saved and the quicker a recovery will be.
‘Yes, there will be pain for our retail and hospitality sectors, but they want long term security and a strong recovery and a lockdown provides both.
‘An additional package of welfare and economic support will also be needed, especially to protect the most vulnerable.’
They said it was ‘self-evident’ the tier system is not working to curb the virus, adding: ‘London’s rates are a huge cause for concern and we will soon see those rates here and across the rest of the country.
‘Let’s get ahead of the curve and act now. We all know too well the dire consequences and costs if we don’t, particularly to the most vulnerable in our communities.
‘Millions of Britons have made many sacrifices these past 10 months and none of us want to see those efforts go to waste. Much progress has been made to limit the virus, but we can only do so much as individuals.
‘The country is currently facing a catastrophe that will undo much of what has been achieved if we do not act as one.’
The UK recorded a record 57,725 Covid-19 cases yesterday, the most since the pandemic began and the fifth day daily cases surpassed 50,000.
The country also saw an additional 445 deaths, taking the total official count to 74,570 – but 90,000 people in total have died with Covid-19 written on their death certificate.
London is now the epicentre of the UK’s outbreak and its hospitals are being stretched with the flood of patients. The weekly rate of cases is double the national average at 858 per 100,000 people.
A Government spokeswoman said: ‘We strengthened our measures by introducing Tier 4 two weeks ago, based on advice from SAGE and it is vital everyone continues to follow the rules to reduce transmission in their areas, save lives and protect our NHS.
‘We keep the spread of Covid-19 under constant review based on latest medical and scientific data and have been clear we will not hesitate to take actions necessary to protect local communities.’
It comes as scientists warned England will be stuck in its relentless cycle of coronavirus lockdowns until at least the end of spring even if the vaccine roll-out goes to plan.
The new strain of coronavirus transmits faster and is most prevalent in London and the South East, where hospitals have become stretched. It is believed the strain is spreading from south to north, leading to increasing pressure on the NHS
London is now the epicentre of the outbreak and its hospitals are being stretched with the flood of patients. The weekly rate of cases is double the national average at 858 per 100,000
Just 2,000 people on the Isles of Scilly are left in Tier 1 – with everyone else in England now under the highest Tier 3 and 4 lockdowns
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said after the approval of the Oxford vaccine he now has a ‘very high degree of confidence that we are going to be out of this by the spring,’ in a worrying echo of Boris Johnson’s claim in July that the UK would be ‘back to normal by Christmas’.
Labour shadow cabinet minister Jo Stevens, 54, is in hospital with coronavirus
Labour’s shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens is being treated in hospital for coronavirus, her aides announced.
A statement said: ‘Jo has asked us to let you know that she is being treated in hospital for Covid. Thanks for all your good wishes we will give an update when we can.’
It first emerged the 54-year-old Cardiff Central MP had contracted Covid-19 on New Year’s Eve, when her advisors said she was ‘laid low’ because of her infection.
Politicians of all stripes tonight rallied round their colleague, with Sir Keir Starmer leading the well-wishers, tweeting: ‘Get well soon Jo, a dear friend and colleague.’
Wales’ first minister Mark Drakeford said: ‘All of our thoughts and best wishes are with Jo for a speedy recovery.
‘Thank you to Jo’s constituency team for continuing to support Cardiff Central constituents at this difficult time.’
Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas Symonds tweeted: ‘Thinking of my friend and Welsh Labour colleague Jo Stevens this evening – Get well soon Jo!’
Conservative minister Nadhim Zahawi, who is leading the Government’s vaccine rollout, tweeted: ‘Wishing you a speedy recovery Jo.’
The announcement was the first tweet from her account since December 31 when it was first revealed Ms Stevens was battling Covid-19.
But experts say they expect the repeated lockdowns and social distancing rules to keep rolling for ‘months and months’, lasting until May or even deep into the summer of 2021.
The PM refused to put a ‘deadline’ on when he thought the current rules – which have 78 per cent of England’s population in the toughest Tier 4 – would end, but admitted they might stay until the spring, with the UK now in a race against time to vaccinate the nation.
Families hoping for a reunion after being separated during the festive period might be out of luck, with scientists convinced the outbreak is still getting worse. They fear even the toughest lockdowns might not be able to stop the spread of the new super-infectious variant of the coronavirus.
Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious disease expert at the University of East Anglia, told BBC Radio 4: ‘It is going to be a very, very difficult few months until we get, hopefully, relief as we move from spring into summer when many people will have been vaccinated and the warmer weather will be here.’
Dr Simon Clarke, a microbiologist at the University of Reading, told MailOnline he expected lockdown rules would keep going ‘until April or May’ before the effects of mass-vaccination would be strong enough to relax restrictions.
And Dr Gabriel Scally, a public health professor at the University of Bristol and member of Independent SAGE, told this website he expects the harsh rules to carry on for ‘months and months’, with some form of national lockdown now the best option.
Their comments come after No10 plunged 20 million more people into the toughest lockdown rules after allowing them to meet with families over Christmas, meaning there are now 44 million people living in Tier 4 – in which all non-essential shops and hospitality businesses must close – with the remaining 12 million living in Tier Three. Only the Isles of Scilly, with a population of 2,000 off Cornwall’s coast, is in Tier 1.
Pressure is mounting on the Government to keep all school children in England learning from home when the new term starts next week amid fears over the spread of the new strain of Covid-19.
Gavin Williamson confirmed on Friday that all London primary schools will remain shut to most pupils next week – rather than just those in certain boroughs as set out earlier in the week – but teaching unions say all schools should close for the next two weeks.
Last night, the Department for Education said remote learning was ‘a last resort’ and classrooms should reopen ‘wherever possible’ with appropriate safety measures to help mitigate the risk of transmission.
‘As we’ve said, we will move to remote education as a last resort, with involvement of public health officials, in areas where infection and pressures on the NHS are highest,’ the spokesperson said.
Hundreds of new vaccination sites are due to be up and running this week as the NHS ramps up its immunisation programme with the newly approved Oxford University and AstraZeneca jab.
Some 530,000 doses of the vaccine will be available for rollout across the UK from Monday and more than a million patients have already had their first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine which was the first to be approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.
But Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman said children’s education cannot be ‘furloughed’ for months while vaccinations are rolled out and time absent from the classroom should be kept to an ‘absolute minimum’, the Sunday Telegraph reported.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the vaccine roll-out was ‘our great hope’, adding: ‘I want the Government to throw everything it can at this, harnessing the extraordinary talents of our NHS so we can be vaccinating at least two million Brits a week by the end of the month.’
But, writing in the Sunday Mirror, he criticised ‘a chaotic last minute U-turn on schools’, adding: ‘Confusion reigns among parents, teachers and pupils over who will be back in school tomorrow and who won’t.’
General secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), Mary Bousted, said schools should stay closed for two weeks to ‘break the chain’ of transmission and prevent the NHS becoming overwhelmed.’
The union, which represents the majority of teachers, has advised its members it is not safe to return to classrooms on Monday.
NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman said the union had started preliminary steps in legal proceedings against the Department for Education, asking it to share its scientific data about safety and transmission rates.
Unions have also called for the reopening of schools in Wales next week to be delayed with Laura Doel, director of school leaders’ union NAHT Cymru, saying ‘the latest data shows that in large parts of Wales, control of infection has been lost’.
From January 4, all London primary schools will be required to provide remote learning for two weeks to all children except vulnerable children and those of key workers, who will be allowed to attend.
Mr Williamson said the January 1 decision to expand closures to the nine remaining London boroughs and the City of London was a ‘last resort’.
Under the Government’s initial plan, secondary schools and colleges were set to be closed to most pupils for the first two weeks of January, while primary schools within 50 local authorities in the south of England, including 23 London boroughs, were also told to keep their doors shut until January 18.
Green Party-led Brighton and Hove City Council has advised primary schools in the Tier 4 area not to return in person, except for vulnerable children and those of key workers, until January 18 despite the Government’s plan for most schools to open in person.
Linda Bauld, a professor in public health at the University of Edinburgh, said transmission among primary school pupils was ‘still very limited’ while secondary school pupils, particularly older teenagers, can pass on the virus in the same way as adults.
But health professionals have warned of growing pressure on services with Professor Andrew Goddard, president of the Royal College of Physicians, telling the BBC current case figures are ‘fairly mild’ compared to what is expected in a week’s time.