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Boris Johnson did not rule out another full lockdown this winter, saying he could not see anything to indicate it was “on the cards”.
The prime minister was wearing a face mask when he made the comments on a visit to a vaccine centre in London on Friday.
Asked to rule out a full lockdown with “stay at home” advice and shops closing, he replied: “I’ve got to tell you at the moment that we see absolutely nothing to indicate that that is on the cards at all.”
Earlier this week cabinet ministers took a tougher line against any future lockdown, with business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng “categorically” ruling it out.
However, the government stepped up is covid messaging in the last few days and health secretary Sajid Javid warned restrictions could be reimposed.
Javid held a press conference to urge the public to meet outdoors where possible, wear face coverings in crowded enclosed spaces and take frequent rapid tests.
It comes as scientists advising the government are calling on them to reintroduce stricter covid measures now.
Daily cases are now over 50,000, but the health secretary Sajid Javid has said they could double in the coming months. Meanwhile, hospital admissions and deaths across the UK are rising slowly.
However, ministers in England have so far resisted pressure to re-introduce controls, such as compulsory mask-wearing.
Experts from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies [SAGE] have said preparations for the reintroduction of restrictions should be undertaken now so that measures “can be ready for rapid deployment if required”.
They predict it is “increasingly unlikely” covid hospital admissions this winter will rise above the peak seen last January.
But they warn that acting earlier rather than later could reduce the need for stricter measures over a longer timeframe “to avoid an unacceptable level of hospitalisations”.