Minister ‘Can’t Rule Out’ THIRD Lockdown, Says No Normality Until Summer

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 28: Police officers in riot gear are seen at Piccadilly circus during a protest on November 28, 2020 in London, England. London is to return to 'Tier 2' or 'high alert' covid-19 restrictions once the current England-wide coronavirus lockdown ends next Wednesday. All three of the …
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A senior minister would not rule out a third lockdown, following government scientists saying that a January 2021 shutdown may be enforced on the nation as payment for having a few days of freedom over Christmas.

Environment Minister George Eustace also said on Monday that the even just the beginning of a return to normality might not happen until the summer — only if a vaccine is approved and made widespread.

Speaking to Sky News, Mr Eustace said it was “too early to say” whether the UK would be forced into another lockdown after the holiday period, and attempted to play down the possibility, saying: “Provided we maintain the tiered approach for as long as necessary, I don’t think it’ll be necessary to go back into another full lockdown.”

However, he added: “You can’t rule anything out because this is a rapidly developing situation… It’s always difficult to predict what will happen.”

The government recently announced a relaxation of rules for five days over Christmas, allowing Britons to have limited family festivities restricted to “bubbles” of three households. Public Health England and a governmental chief medical advisor said that for every day of freedom would cost five days in shutdown, meaning nearly the whole of January could be massively restricted. Professor Neil Ferguson, who left his senior government advisory role in May in disgrace after breaking lockdown but still appears to be involved in the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), also predicted a third lockdown.

The minister’s remarks come just days after the government revealed that even more parts of England would be forced into higher social distancing tiers after lockdown. Some 99 per cent of the country are now under the top two tiers — Tier 2 and Tier 3 — with just Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly off the south-west county’s coast, and the Isle of Wight under Tier 1. More areas of the country have made dramatic shifts into the top tier, with Kent going from Tier 1 before the first lockdown to being projected to going into Tier 3 after December 2nd.

Conservative Members of Parliament have expressed incredulity at how the country can now be considered to be in a worse situation after lockdown than before. Influential Tory Iain Duncan Smith tweeted on Friday: “What was the point of the #lockdown if, as we come out, we end up with tighter restrictions than before lockdown? We aren’t even waiting to learn what the effect of the lockdown has been before rushing into these changes.

“MPs have called for a full cost/benefit analysis to be published, to show what evidence for stricter rules and the effect of these decisions will be on lives and livelihoods in every constituency. The Government must come clean and do this now or lose not just many of their MPs but the public as well.”

The government has since relented and said that it will make public the impact assessments; however, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is still facing a potentially large party rebellion over the continued cycle of lockdown and restrictions.

On Tuesday, MPs will vote in the House of Commons on the prime minister’s proposed new tier distribution. Some 60 MPs have voiced their concern over the measures, with Mr Eustace admitting that there are “up to 100” rebels in the party who could vote against the measures.

That may leave the prime minister at the mercy of support from the Opposition. So far backing the government’s continuing cycles of lockdowns and social distancing tiers, a Labour source, however, told The Telegraph that Sir Keir Starmer’s and Labour’s votes were not a given.

“We have not yet made a decision. It is not a surprise to say that abstention may be possible. I can’t see us voting against,” the source said.

If the social distancing tiers are passed, the Commons will be voting again in February on whether to extend the restrictions until April.

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