No new social distancing restrictions to combat the spread of coronavirus will be introduced “today or tomorrow”, Priti Patel has said, amid suggestions that tougher measures could be imposed next week.
The Home Secretary was continuing to focus on the enforcement of current lockdown measures in England on Thursday, but did not rule out further restrictions being introduced in the future.
With the NHS under extraordinary pressures, there are concerns that the current restrictions may not be enough to bring the infection rate under control, particularly with the highly-transmissible new variant.
Ministers are reportedly considering tougher measures such as requiring masks to be worn outdoors and only allowing exercise with those within one’s household bubble, but are not planning on introducing these measures until next week at the earliest.
Ms Patel stressed the stay at home message currently in place as ministers focus for now on trying to ensure maximum compliance with the existing regulations.
Asked whether further restrictions could include a three-metre social distancing rule, or the requirement to wear masks outside, she told ITV’s This Morning: “The plans are very much to enforce the rules.
“This isn’t about new rules coming in – we’re going to stick with enforcing the current measures.”
But she did not rule out new measures being announced next week, limiting her comments to: “We are not thinking about bringing in new measures today or tomorrow.”
Downing Street said restrictions were being kept “under review” when asked about Ms Patel’s comments and pointed towards Boris Johnson saying earlier this week that tougher measures will be introduced if necessary but that “early signs” of progress are being seen.
“We obviously continue to keep an eye on the latest data and the latest scientific information and we’ll take action where we deem it is necessary,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.
Scotland has toughened its lockdown restrictions to include reducing click and collect services to only those deemed essential from Saturday.
Customers will be barred from entering eateries so that they will have to be handed over takeaway food or drinks at a door or hatch.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said the current measures in England are “not strong enough” and accused Boris Johnson of being “slow to act”.
The Prime Minister said he would not rule out imposing tougher measures if required.