Covid: 'No Lockdown This Winter', Says Cabinet Minister Amid Rising Cases

UK cases have been rising sharply but deaths are well below last winter's peak.
An almost deserted Westminster Bridge in central London as the Coronavirus pandemic escalated in March 2020.
An almost deserted Westminster Bridge in central London as the Coronavirus pandemic escalated in March 2020.
Barcroft Media via Getty Images

The business secretary has “categorically ruled out” another lockdown this winter despite rising covid cases.

Kwasi Kwarteng said the government does not want to go back to the most severe restrictions.

It comes as health leaders warned some covid measures must immediately be reintroduced if England is to avoid “stumbling into a winter crisis”.

However, asked about another lockdown, Kwarteng told Sky News: “No, I would rule that out”.

Kwarteng said the government had “plotted a path” between the “extremes” of lockdown and not locking down.

He made the statement in response to comments by Professor Stephen Reicher – a member of the scientific pandemic insights group on behaviours, which feeds into the Sage advisory body – who said the prospect of further lockdowns could not be discounted.

Kwarteng said discussions about such measures or restrictions on holidays were “completely unhelpful”.

The cabinet minister added: “We don’t want to go back into lockdown or into further restrictions.”

Challenged on the government saying the same thing last year before further measures were introduced, he added: “This time last year, we didn’t have the vaccine.”

Meanwhile, the NHS Confederation is calling on ministers to roll out their “Plan B” back-up strategy that includes mandatory face coverings in crowded and enclosed spaces.

Matthew Taylor, head of the confederation which represents health service organisations, warned about hospitals becoming overwhelmed.

“The NHS is preparing for what could be the most challenging winter on record,” he said.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng
OLI SCARFF via Getty Images

Daily cases have been above 40,000 for seven days in a row, with 43,738 new infections reported yesterday. More than 220 deaths were recorded, the highest since March, although daily figures are often more on Tuesdays.

Kwarteng said the slow uptake of coronavirus booster jab was “something that we really need to address”.

He said they were “concerned” about rising deaths, but added: “You’ll remember at the beginning of the year we had hundreds, if not thousands, a day.

“Mercifully that hasn’t happened and, as the Health Secretary said, it’s something we’re going to have to live with and I think we are managing the situation.”