LONDON — Even as Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new three-tier lockdown system for England in a bid to slow a spike in coronavirus cases across the country, officials warned that the new measures might not be enough to halt the spread of infections and that even more may be needed.
Cases of the infection and hospitalization rates are climbing once again in Britain, which remains the worst-hit country in Europe, with almost 43,000 lives lost to the virus.
Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, admitted Monday that he was not convinced that the rules in the strictest tier “would be enough to get on top of” the virus. He spoke as the prime minister outlined a new strategy that places areas of the country in three different alert tiers.
With the city of Liverpool gearing up for the strictest of measures under Tier 3 on Wednesday, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said the government may “need to go further” to control the second outbreak.
Under Tier 3, meetings between separate households are banned, and both indoor and outdoors and gyms will be forced to close. Only pubs and bars serving “substantial meals” are allowed to remain open.
The majority of England remains on medium-level alert, meaning six people can meet up and restaurants remain open but operate under a 10 p.m. curfew.
Government scientists called for an “immediate” two-week lockdown in England three weeks ago in a document that just came to light. The minutes from the meeting of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies on Sept. 21 warned that “not acting now” would result in a “very large epidemic with catastrophic consequences.”
Addressing the nation on Monday, Johnson warned Britons that the country’s rise in cases was “flashing like dashboard warnings in a passenger jet.”