The next six months are set to be ‘very, very difficult’, according to the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).
Professor Jeremy Farrar has said the next three to six months will be a ‘very, very difficult’ period but the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ is effective Covid-19 treatment which should be ready by the first quarter of 2021.
Speaking on Sky News, Prof Farrar said that a circuit-breaker national lockdown is now needed. He explained that there could currently be 50,000 cases a day.
He said: “The ONS (Office for National Statistics) survey, which is the best data in the country at the moment, shows that 27,000 people are getting this infection every day. But that was until the 10th of October.
“Today it will be over 50,000, just as the CMO (England’s chief medical officer) Chris Whitty and (the Government’s chief scientific adviser) Sir Patrick Vallance suggested some three weeks ago.
“It would be at 50,000 new cases across the country every single day, and that’s almost exactly where we are.”
When asked about Christmas, Prof Farrar said: “Christmas will be tough this year. I don’t think it’s going to be the usual celebration it is and all families coming together, I’m afraid.
“I think we have to be honest and realistic and say that we are in for three to six months of a very, very difficult period.
“The temperatures drop, we are all indoors more often, we have the other infections that come this time of year.
“It’s much better for us to be upfront and honest now, and say we are in for a really difficult time, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.”
Prof Farrar added that a short national lockdown will be best to reduce transmission rates. he added that the best time to put this in place would have been September 20th but that ‘it was never too late’.
He said: “The second best time to do this is now, and the worst time to do this is at the end of November when things would have really got considerably worse.
“So it’s never too late, it’s better to do it now than in a month’s time.”
The rules for Christmas have been announced, and three households will be able to meet indoors over the festive period. Three different households will be able to form a ‘bubble’ for Christmas, between December 23rd and December 27th. The Christmas rules will apply across the whole of the UK, Sky News reports.
It comes after the devolved administrations and UK government spent this week in meetings to work out a plan for Christmas, with an agreement happening on Tuesday afternoon. The bubbles will only be able to meet in a private home, place of worship or outdoors, and won’t be able to go to a pub, restaurant or bar.
According to the rules, once a bubble is formed you can’t change it. The lifting of certain rules will also see travel restrictions lifted across the UK over the five-day Christmas period, meaning people can travel anywhere in the country to meet their bubble.
Michael Gove chaired the meeting. He said: “For five days, from December 23rd to 27th, people will be allowed to have a Christmas bubble.
“That means that three households can get together so families can enjoy something closer to a normal Christmas.
“We all know that Christmas this year won’t be as it has been in years’ past, but all the governments agreed we should balance the need to protect public health with also allowing people to be with their loved ones.”
Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “We have to recognise that Christmas is a very important time for people, and that you have to have a set of rules that people will be prepared to operate within.” He added: “While I have hesitation, because of the state of the virus in Wales and across the United Kingdom, it is better that we have a common set of arrangements that give people a framework that they can manage within and act responsibly within as well.”
Downing Street has said Boris Johnson believes MP should not receive an annual pay rise.
Next year, MPs are expected to receive a pay rise of £3,360 on top of their £81,932 annual salary, causing anger among the public as it comes at a time when ordinary people are struggling.
However, a Downing Street spokesperson has said that Mr Johnson has already frozen ministerial pay as he does not believe MPs should get a pay rise.
The spokesperson said: “MP’s salaries are obviously decided by an independent body but given the circumstances, the PM doesn’t believe MPs should be receiving a pay rise”.
On top of their annual salary, MPs are also able to claim allowances to cover the cost of running an office, employing staff and maintaining a constituency residence or residence in London.
News of the potential pay rise has caused outrage after thousands have lost their jobs in the pandemic. The exact amount of the pay rise is yet to be confirmed.
The PM’s statement comes following an awkward interview between Matt Hancock and Good Morning Britain presenter Piers Morgan.
Piers said he would ‘love’ to hear the Health Secretary refuse a pay rise in the struggling economy.
Hancock said: “That’s what all ministers did in the pay freeze that there was after the global financial crash – me included.
“Let’s see what the final recommendation is and then I’ll come… I know, I’ll promise to commit to coming back on this programme immediately after that decision comes through and then I’ll let you know. I will answer this question when the pay policy has been set out by the chancellor.”
Piers interrupted and said: “I’m just asking you to say you are not personally going to take a penny.
“Just say I, Matt Hancock, right now tell Good Morning Britain viewers that in all good conscience it would be wrong of me to take a penny in a pay rise this year. And I am going to put my hand up and lead.”
Hancock, who is believed to be paid an annual salary in the region of £140,000, said: “It’s very tempting, it’s very tempting Piers. I am a stickler for not pre-judging things. You can’t knock me off the perch.”
Piers responded: “You’re not a parrot, you’re the Health Secretary in the year of the catastrophic handling of the pandemic.”
As before, some businesses will be forced to close in regions which are put into Tier 3.
The new, tougher tier system will come into play next week when the national lockdown ends on December 2nd.
The country is set to find out which tier their region is in on Thursday, and while Greater Manchester’s infection rates are falling, there’s a chance we might be placed back into Tier 3 initially.
The Prime Minister announced on Monday: “So we’re not going to replace national measures with a free for all, the status quo anti-Covid, we’re going to go back instead to a regional tiered approach – applying the toughest measures where Covid is most prevalent.
“And while the previous local tiers did cut the ‘R’ number, they were not quite enough to reduce it below one.
“So the scientific advice, I’m afraid, is that as we come out our tiers need to be made tougher.”
In Tier 3, hospitality venues such as bars (including shisha venues), pubs, cafes and restaurants must remain closed.
They can continue business if they can offer sales via takeaway, click-and-collect, drive-through or delivery services.
Hotels, B&Bs, campsites guest houses and other forms of accommodation must also shut. They can only remain open for one of a few exemptions such as if it provides main residence for some people or it is used for reasonably necessary work or education and training.
Indoor entertainment venues must close. This includes:
Indoor play centres and areas, including trampoline parks and soft play
Amusement arcades and adult gaming centres
Laser quests and escape rooms
Cinemas, theatres and concert halls
Indoor attractions at mostly outdoor environments must also close.
Zoos, safari parks, and wildlife reserves
Aquariums, visitor attractions at farms, and other animal attractions
Museums, galleries and sculpture parks
Botanical gardens, biomes or greenhouses
Theme parks, circuses, fairgrounds and funfairs
Visitor attractions at film studios, heritage sites such as castles and stately homes
Landmarks including observation decks and viewing platforms
Leisure and sports facilities – such as gyms – may continue to stay open, but group exercise classes (including fitness and dance) should not go ahead. Saunas and steam rooms must also stay closed.