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UK Braces For Hundreds Of COVID-19 Deaths Daily As Experts Warn There Is no Alternative To Second Lockdown

Government scientists have spooked Boris Johnson with warnings of hundreds of daily coronavirus deaths 'within weeks' as they tell the terrified Prime Minister: 'There is no alternative to a second national lockdown'.

Mr Johnson is now threatening to 'intensify' coronavirus restrictions as early as Tuesday as he blames the British public for the rise in cases - despite his repeated pleas for people to get back to offices and eat out in a bid to resuscitate Britain's flailing economy.

The Prime Minister is looking to ditch his Rule of Six and introduce fortnight-long 'circuit breakers' nationwide for six months, following claims that it was 'inevitable' that a second wave would hit the country last night.

The new approach to get the UK through winter would see it alternate periods of stricter measures, including bans on all social contact between households and shutting down hospitality and leisure venues like bars and restaurants, with intervals of relaxation. Schools will be shut as a 'last resort', a Whitehall source claimed.

It is understood that the new 'circuit break' shutdown could be announced via television press conference on Tuesday, in a move reminiscent of the Government's behaviour during the peak of the pandemic.

Visiting the Vaccines Manufacturing Innovation Centre construction site near Oxford, Mr Johnson said: 'What I can certainly say about parents and schools is we want to keep the schools open, that is going to happen.

'We want to try and keep all parts of the economy open as far as we possibly can - I don't think anybody wants to go into a second lockdown but clearly when you look at what is happening, you have got to wonder whether we need to go further than the rule of six that we have brought in on Monday, so we will be looking at the local lockdowns we have got in large parts of the country now, looking at what we can do to intensify things that help bring the rate of infection down there, but also looking at other measures as well.'

Officials, including chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, are thought to be arguing for tough restrictions as panic within official circles grows.

Today the Government's original lockdown architect, Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London, recommended 'rolling back' freedoms 'sooner rather than later' by 'reducing contact rates between people'.

The epidemiologist, who was sacked from SAGE for flouting his own lockdown rules, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: 'Right now we're at about the levels of infections that we were seeing in late February ,if we leave it at another two to four weeks we will be back at levels we were seeing more like mid March.

'That's going to clearly cause deaths... I think some additional measures are likely to be needed sooner rather than later, the timing of any more intensive policy, temporary policy, is open to question'.

But the measures are thought to have been met with protests from Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who has warned against introducing new blanket restrictions by pointing to huge damage already inflicted to the economy.

Government sources claim that Mr Sunak gave 'sombre warnings' to the Prime Minister, while Mr Johnson bizarrely shrugged off the 'grim' economic forecasts - claiming that 'he was confident it will all be OK in the end'.

Business leaders last night echoed the Chancellor's concerns and warned that a second lockdown would tank the economy, with the British Chambers of Commerce saying: 'Uncertainty and speculation around future national restrictions will sap business and consumer confidence at a delicate moment for the economy'.

The Government's handling of the coronavirus crisis is understood to be playing on Mr Johnson's mind as No 10 sources insist he is worrying about his standing at the next General Election in 2024. But with the Labour Party neck-and-neck with the Tories at the polls, backbenchers could be contemplating a revolt before then.

The dramatic move came as the UK's daily infections hit a four-month high of 4,322, with figures showing the outbreak has nearly doubled in size in a week and the R number being potentially as high as 1.4.

Parts of England are being forced back into lockdown, with curbs including a 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants and a ban on socialising outside of households across the North West, Midlands and West Yorkshire from Tuesday. A total of around 13 million people are now under under local restrictions.

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