'There's no magic number!' Van Tam hits back at PHE scaremongering over January lockdown

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam was speaking at the Government’s coronavirus briefing when he made the comments on Friday night. Referring to advice issued by Public Health England (PHE) that for every day of easing of restrictions there would need to be a further five days of harsher measures on the other side, he said: “The Government clearly wants to give us a break at Christmas. But there is no magic number about one day at Christmas, ten days of payback in terms of lockdown.

“It’s partly about the proportionate measures that the Government will take in allowing us to have a sensible Christmas but also whether we comply and whether we follow the rules that are then put in place for that period.”

Prof Van-Tam continued: “If people don’t, then the first scientific principle is things will go back again.

“That’s the real message, that there’s a dual responsibility here and there’s no magic number about how many days this is going to cost us.

“We shouldn’t put it that way.”

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The lockdown currently in place across England is due to be reviewed on December 2 but speculation has arisen about a potential extension of the measures.

A spokesman for the British Government has however suggested Prime Minister Boris Johnson is now looking at plans that would allow Britons to spend the Christmas period with their loved ones in exchange for further restrictions in the new year.

The spokesman said: “We are looking at ways to ensure that people can spend time with close family over Christmas at the end of what has been an incredibly difficult year.”

Talks with the devolved administration in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are also said to be progressing to ensure a UK-wide approach is adopted in the coming weeks.

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Government sources told the Daily Express the lockdown could effectively be lifted but result in the creation of a fourth tier of even more draconian rules in areas experiencing the worst rate of infection.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said earlier in the week the changes would still mark a “significant easing” of current measures.

Asked whether the Government will be forced to ban Christmas indoor gatherings, Mr Jenrick said: “We don’t know that yet.

“The hard yards that we’ve done in November were designed to enable most people in England to have a much more normal December so that we can go to the shops, we can use hospitality and, as far as possible, we can be together as families at Christmas.

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“We can see from the data that the tiered approach in October and early November was having an impact, particularly in some parts of the country.

“It’s too early to say the true impact of the new national measures because there’s a lag time of two or three weeks, but hopefully by the end of November we’ll be in a position to take that judgment.”

But Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick already signalled officers will not be “barging in” and stop indoor gatherings.

Ms Dick said: “We have no powers of entry, I have no intention anyway of encouraging my people to be barging through people’s doors or knocking on people’s doors, unless you’ve got as we sometimes do, a huge party going on which is clearly very, very dangerous and causing lots of concern – for them, we might be knocking on doors, saying you need to stop this.

“We don’t know what the rules are, let’s see what they are, but I have no interest in interrupting family Christmas dinners.

“The police have lots of other things to be doing.”

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