It comes after a new variant of COVID-19, which is said to be 70 percent more infectious than previous strains, has already spread around the UK, with cases identified in Wales and Scotland. Boris Johnson and the Cabinet’s Covid operations committee is meeting today to consider the latest data on the spread of the virus.
Further measures have been suggested in a robust change to the UK tiering system with Government officials admitting the system had not been “robust enough” to deal with the increasing spread.
The new measures, Express.co.uk understands, could closely resemble the national lockdown in March with the strict “Stay at Home” message strengthened.
As well as this, other locations including Birmingham are expected to be moved up the ranks into Tier 4 and lower-ranking areas could be moved into Tier 3.
A senior Whitehall source told Express.co.uk: “We are ruling nothing out, the new strain is of serious concern.
“Tier 4 appears to not be strong enough.”
The source stressed the measures were essentially “adding another level onto Tier 4, so like a Tier 5.”
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick also acknowledged “it may be necessary to take further action” to curb rising case numbers.
Mr Jenrick said this morning: “We don’t have a timetable for that. The Government’s Covid operations committee is meeting later today to review further evidence.
“We keep this under review, we are constantly hearing from our scientific advisers about what we should do.”
The new variant is “very concerning” and is “prevalent probably in most regions of the country”, he acknowledged.
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Responding to the news, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson to say his party will back any Government moves to tighten restrictions if that is what scientists recommend.
Genomic researchers have found the new and more infectious variant of Covid-19 has already spread around the UK, with cases identified in Wales and Scotland.
The COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) consortium sampled cases around the UK and found the variant is also in the South West, Midlands and North of England – areas that are under Tier 2 and 3 restrictions.
Scientists Professor Lawrence Young and Professor Robert Dingwall explained the new variant is more transmissible because it “sticks” more easily to receptors in the throat and nose – which preliminary research also suggests is the reason it seems to be more prevalent among children.
Professor Jason Leitch, Scotland’s National Clinical Director, told Holyrood’s COVID-19 committee this morning the UK Government’s measures were not effective enough.
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Professor Leitch referred to minutes of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) which suggested the new variant was highly present during England’s national lockdown in November.
Mr Leitch continued: “That suggests the November lockdown in the South East of England wasn’t sufficient to drive down the R number for this variant.”
Professor Leitch stressed it will be “very, very difficult” to keep the R number below one given how transmissible the variant is, adding: “It would be back to March rather than November” hinting of another national lockdown.
At the same time, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon could be poised to introduce a “Stay at Home Message” for Scots amid concerns the variant could cause cases to rise significantly in Scotland.
Speaking in Holyrood, she said this system has “until now been effective”, but as more information on the new strain emerges consideration will be given on whether the top-level – Level 4 – needs to be strengthened.
She added: “It seems that we are facing a virus that spreads much faster now than in March, so we need to consider whether the current Level 4 restrictions will be sufficient to suppress it.”
In addition, the Scottish Government is also passing legislation which would ban Scots from travelling to the Republic in Ireland in its coronavirus regulations.
The latest Government figures reveal there have been more than two million confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK and more than 67,000 people have died.