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Parts of the UK could be placed into an unprecedented "Tier 5" after officials were warned current lockdown measures aren't "strong enough".
Boris Johnson has reportedly been advised that stronger restrictions are necessary to curb skyrocketing Covid-19 cases.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) says the fast-spreading new coronavirus variant could prove disastrous and cause the R-rate to surge above 1 in the coming month, Politico reports.
The committee's public health experts told the Prime Minister last week that another national lockdown like the one placed on the country in November won't be enough to prevent infections spiralling out of control.
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They've recommended a complete closure of schools, pubs and non-essential shops in a repeat of the initial March lockdown.
These measures would go considerably further than the Tier 4 restrictions in place in London and parts of the south east of England, which are currently the toughest in the UK.
However there's no suggestion at this point that the new restrictions would be referred to as Tier 5.
"We are ruling nothing out, the new strain is of serious concern," a senior Whitehall source told the Express.
"Tier 4 appears to not be strong enough."
It's unknown what further restrictions would entail. March's full national lockdown saw Brits forbidden from leaving their homes except to buy essentials, exercise or seek medical attention.
The Cabinet Office and the Department of Health have both been contacted for comment.
The UK recorded 30,501 positive coronavirus tests on Sunday, with a total of 248,199 positive test results in the past seven days — up 30.1 percent compared to the previous week.
Deaths within 28 days of a positive result are also rising, with 316 recorded on Sunday and 3,351 in the last seven days.
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The Government had already announced on Monday morning that only primary school students, children of key workers and secondary school pupils in years 11 and 13 will return to school on January 4.
All others will be taught remotely for at least the first week of term, Michael Gove said.
As well as bumping up restrictions in Tier 4 areas, locations such as Birmingham could also be moved up into Tier 4.
Last weekend the Prime Minister abruptly cancelled the highly anticipated Christmas bubble scheme, which would have allowed household mixing over the festive period.
The discovery of the new Covid-19 variant, thought to be 70% more infectious than its predecessor, prompted enough alarm among health experts for the Government to call off the Christmas relaxation for approximately a third of the country.
The new strain is known to have since spread to Scotland, Wales, Australia and South Africa.
However experts believe the coronavirus vaccine, which has already been given to more than a million people around the world, will still be effective against the new variant.
- Boris Johnson
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