BLANKET lockdown measures would be “not appropriate” and local measures ARE working, Rishi Sunak said this morning.
The Chancellor insisted the PM didn’t want to put in place new nationwide curfews to stop the spread of coronavirus, despite growing cases in the North of England and across the country.
It comes as Scotland is set to announce a two-week ‘circuit breaker’ in the coming days – which could see businesses shut for a fortnight to clamp down on cases.
The First Minister hinted at pub shutdowns and new travel restrictions yesterday, and the NHS have been warned it could come into force in days.
But Mr Sunak told BBC Breakfast on local lockdown measures: “They are working. As we learn more we can adapt our interventions.
“If you look at places like Leicester or Luton who have had these restrictions and had them lifted, that shows there can be light at the end of the tunnel.”
However, one example is Manchester, where cases have soared to 500 per 100,000 cases in the two months since it was put under additional measures.
People aren’t allowed to meet up with people they don’t live with in any indoor setting – or they face a £200 fine.
But the virus is still spreading and case numbers reached 12,594 cases yesterday.
The numbers were pushed up even more as a result of 15,000 cases that weren’t recorded properly this week – meaning thousands of people’s contacts were not told they may have the virus.
Mr Sunak insisted that he did not want to see more national measures, adding: “This is the right approach. The alternative is that we have blanket national interventions.
“I think that clearly wouldn’t be appropriate and we should try and avoid that if we can given that there are areas of the country which aren’t seeing either this level of growth or absolute level of transmission and therefore in those areas we can afford to take a slightly different approach.
“That is a better way to go – this more targeted, localised approach.”
The Chancellor also:
- Defended the Eat Out to Help Out scheme again – saying it was a matter of “social justice” to protect people in the lowest paid jobs
- Warned that huge public spending and borrowing was not sustainable in the long run and the books must be balanced
- Insisted he wants to keep as much of the economy open as possible while controlling the spread of the virus
- Said the Cabinet were “not a collection of robots” who all agreed with each other all the time
- Fully supported Boris Johnson’s lockdown decisions
- Vowed to stick to the triple lock on pensions – but insisted he would consider the huge “anomaly” which will take place next year due to an expected hike in wages
- Defended the 10pm curfew, saying it was “better than having places closed”
Already the rule of six applies nationwide, banning people from meeting up in groups of more than that.
And pubs have been ordered to shut at 10pm to try and stop people from getting too close to each other after a few pints in their local.
But the virus is spreading differently across the country – with far more cases in the North of England than in the South.
Earlier Professor Neil Ferguson, who demanded a nationwide lockdown of Britain after predicting 500,000 deaths earlier this year, demanded further restrictions on the nation.
The former SAGE adviser, who quit after he visited his married lover during lockdown, said that an “extended half term” or closing pubs should be considered.
He said on Radio 4: “You will have heard measures being discussed across society as a whole such as extended half terms where we try to reduce transmission for a concerted period.
“I think those measures should be considered.”
BETTER CURFEW THAN CLOSED
The Government is under pressure from Toy MPs to abandon the curfew amid claims there is no evidence that it is preventing the spread of coronavirus while it is damaging businesses.
However, Mr Sunak defended the measure on BBC Breakfast this morning, saying: “The curfew was something we were told by our advisers could well make a difference to the spread of the transmission. We know social contact is how the virus spreads.
“In common with many other countries around the world this is thought to be something that can help suppress the spread of the virus. We are not an outlier in having a curfew.
“It is one that is advised across the board can make a difference.
“What I would say is it is better than having places closed.”
Tonight the PM faces a crunch vote in the Commons on the rule of six, and tomorrow they will have another one on the 10pm pub curfew – but scores of Tories look set to rebel.