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Britain Heading Towards Another Total Lockdown As Coronavirus Cases Skyrocket

Britons could face an even tougher lockdown within two weeks unless the Rule of Six brings down coronavirus cases, it was claimed today.

Ministers and government officials insist they are ready to take more draconian steps to stop the spread, despite a wave of criticism.

Options on the table could range from curfews to closing pubs - although there is a determination that schools will stay open.

'Lockdown is the only thing that we know works, to be frank,' one government science adviser told ITV.

The dire prospect has been raised amid fears that the disease is on the verge of spiralling out of control again.

Although cases have spiked over 3,000 a day, it had been mainly among younger people, who are less likely to be badly affected.

Downing Street did not deny reports that curfews were being considered to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Asked about reports that a curfew could be introduced in London, a Number 10 spokesman today said: 'We will continue to keep the transmission rate under review.

'We've introduced the rule of six to try and bear down on the transmission rate given that it has risen recently.

'But as I say we will keep that data and the scientific evidence under review.'

However, alarm has been sparked by early signs that hospitalisations are on the rise again, and infections are becoming more common among older people.

The problems have been exacerbated by the testing system descending into chaos after schools returned, with high demand for children to be checked.

The area of Rhondda Cynon Taf in south Wales will be placed under a local lockdown following an increase of coronavirus cases, the Welsh Government announced this afternoon.

Health minister Vaughan Gething announced that the measures, which will be reviewed within two weeks, would come into force at 6pm on Thursday.

Rhondda Cynon Taf, which has a population of around 240,000, has seen a rolling seven-day case rate of 82.1 per 100,000 people.

Under the measures, people must not enter or leave the Rhondda Cynon Taf council area without a reasonable excuse.

People will only be able to meet outdoors and will not be able to meet members of their extended household indoors.

All licensed premises will have to close at 11pm.

The 'Rule of Six' imposed by Boris Johnson on Monday makes it illegal to have larger gatherings, although in Scotland and Wales children under 12 do not need to be counted in the numbers.

Ministers have suggested they are following the example of Belgium, where a surge appears to have been tackled using tight limits on gatherings and curfews.

A senior member of the government told ITV's Robert Peston that there was 'no possibility of us waiting for the death rate to rise before we act'.

They added that the government will reassess whether the Rule of Six has been enough to control the situation in fortnight - but there is a widespread view that schools should not be shut again.

A leading scientific advisor reportedly said: 'I think that if we want to keep schools open, we probably have to give serious consideration to a wide range of other measures to stop a major second wave.

'And we have to think about doing that right now - which we are starting to do.'

Another British pub has temporarily banned under 25s due to what its landlady claims is a lack of social distancing among young drinkers.

The Red Lion in Whinmoor announced the move on Facebook on Monday, confirming those in the age bracket will be unable to enter between Friday and Sunday.

The landlady, who wished to remain anonymous, said the decision was made in order to protect staff at the establishment alongside its regular customers from coronavirus.

She added the Red Lion has some 'good young customers' who follow the social distancing guidelines, but a minority 'spoil it for others' as they have to keep reminding them to respect the guidelines in place to stop the spread of the virus.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer was forced to miss Prime Minister's Questions because of a delay in receiving a coronavirus test result for one of his children, his deputy said.

Angela Rayner, standing in for Sir Keir at the despatch box on Wednesday lunchtime, told Boris Johnson that she had a message from 'a man called Keir'.

She told the Commons: 'Keir wasn't able to go to work today and his children couldn't go to school because his family had to wait for their coronavirus test results despite the Prime Minister's promise of results within 24 hours.

'Keir was able to do the right thing and self-isolate and work from home, but other people aren't in this position - many of them are the very people getting us through this crisis.'

Mr Johnson said he understood a negative test had been returned for Sir Keir's child, adding: 'I don't know why he is not here.'

The Labour leader was advised to self-isolate on Monday while awaiting the result of a test for a member of his household who showed possible symptoms of Covid-19.

Less than half an hour before PMQs was due to begin, Sir Keir said he was 'very pleased and relieved that the test result for one of my children came back negative this morning'.

A decision had been made on Tuesday for his deputy, Ms Rayner, to take his place at the question session.

The possibility of a harsher crackdown comes despite a major Tory backlash at the restrictions on everyday life.

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland this morning denied that the 'rule of six' would effectively cancel Christmas, following criticisms from a source close to the Archbishop of Canterbury about the social restrictions imposed this week to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Archbishop of Canterbury warns 'rule of six' is damaging family life
The Archbishop Bishop of Canterbury has warned against coronavirus restrictions being imposed centrally and said he is 'deeply concerned' about the impact of the 'rule of six' on family life.

The Most Rev Justin Welby said the Government had 'determined the daily details of our lives' during the coronavirus lockdown in a way 'few of us have experienced', as he argued instead for localism.

He said Britain has an 'addiction to centralisation' and argues that the country should take on the attitude: 'Only do centrally what must be done centrally'.

The Archbishop is also said to be concerned about the impact of the 'rule of six' - banning gatherings of more than six people indoors and outdoors - on 'the vulnerable, the needy, the poor and the elderly' in Britain.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, the Cabinet minister said: 'Archbishop Justin (Welby) makes an important contribution to this debate and he is right to point to the huge spiritual and social significance of Christmas.

'I don't think any of us in Government want to be Oliver Cromwell-esque about this - we want to see families celebrate Christmas in a safe and happy way and we want to see our churches and indeed our other places of worship joining in that celebration.'

Mr Buckland added: 'We are not going to cancel Christmas but the 'rule of six' is something that is clear and important and I do think we've committed to that and we need to stick to it.'

Health Secretary Matt Hancock yesterday batted away furious demands for young children to be exempted from the rules in England to save Christmas.

He was repeatedly pressed on the 'unfair and inflexible' restrictions as he made a statement in the Commons.

But while Mr Hancock insisted he understood the 'impact' the rules were having, he said 'simplicity' was crucial for them to be effective.

Senior Conservatives lined up to urge the government to copy the Scottish and Welsh administrations, which have said that children aged under 12 do not count towards the limit on gatherings.

Home Secretary Priti Patel warned yesterday that two families bumping into each other on the street would be breaking the new law.

She said more than half-a-dozen people stopping to chat after accidentally meeting up would constitute 'mingling'.

Lawyers questioned whether that was the case - but No10 offered backing, saying: 'You can expect the police to ask you to disperse.'

Ms Patel also said she would report her own neighbours for any behaviour she believed was 'inappropriate' and risked spreading the virus.

The comments came as police complained that they had been left in the dark on how to enforce the tough restrictions, with no guidance and widespread anger among the public.

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