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Pressure mounts to introduce tougher lockdown restrictions with warning UK is in eye of the storm – Chronicle Live

https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/pressure-tougher-coronavirus-lockdown-hancock-19597802

The pressure is mounting for even tougher measures to be put in place as scientists have warned the UK was in the “eye of the storm” of the coronavirus pandemic.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock did not rule out lockdown rules being strengthened as the virus continues to rage out of control across the country.

Pressed on possible restrictions, Mr Hancock told the BBC: “I don’t want to speculate because the most important message is not whether the Government will further strengthen the rules.

“The most important thing is that people stay at home and follow the rules that we have got.

“And that, in terms of the scale of the impact on the cases, that is the most important thing we can do collectively as a society.”

Professor Peter Horby, chairman of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group, said existing measures might have to be tightened further as he warned the country was “now in the eye of a storm” with the pandemic.

He told the BBC: “Now we’re in a situation where everything that was risky in the past is now more risky so we are going to have to be very, very strict about the measures.

“Whether the current restrictions are enough, I think it remains to be seen. It will be a week or two before it becomes clear.

“They may be sufficient but we have to be very vigilant and if there’s any sign that they’re not, then we’re going to have to be even stricter I’m afraid.”

Tightening of restrictions could mean curfews, nurseries being closed, support bubbles being banned, the public told to wear masks outside and exercise limited to one hour.

Professor Devi Sridhar, chair of public health at Edinburgh University, said that lockdown in the UK should continue for the next 12 weeks.

She said: “With the numbers we’re at, there’s no other choice.”

Anthony Costello, a professor of global health at UCL and a former WHO director, said that only “a total clampdown” would be enough to stop the virus.

He said: “We are in a national crisis with a pandemic out of control.

“We should have no nurseries open, no synagogues, no churches, no mosques. We should have compulsory masks, two-metre distancing.”

While Labour Leader Keir Starmer admitted the current lockdown rules “may not be tough enough”.

Earlier, Mr Hancock backed more stringent enforcement of the lockdown by police and warned that “every flexibility” of the rules could prove fatal.

Matt Hancock said the majority of people are “following the rules” to stay at home, but he refused to criticise the police over complaints that some forces have been over-zealous in handing out fines.