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England will "probably" be in a full national lockdown by the end of January, a SAGE expert has warned.
Doctor Mike Tildesley says a full lockdown could well be in place within the next three or four weeks.
Millions more were placed into Tier 4 restrictions on Wednesday, but Dr Tidesley warns harsher measures are on the way.
He said: "Cases are rising in a really concerning way.
"So I suspect that unfortunately we will see a ramping-up even further of restrictions, probably more of the country being in Tier 4 or ultimately probably a national lockdown before we get to the end of January."
Dr Tildesley, a member of a SAGE team called the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling, told Radio 4’s Today programme that the current measures would not be enough to stem the tide of Covid-19 infections.
Speaking on the same programme, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson maintained that the current Tier system would be enough to keep the virus under control.
He said: "We're obviously creating a great amount of space for the whole public health body in terms of dealing with this pandemic.
"Because, with children's return to secondary schools being pushed back that bit further, coupled with this mass testing regime, we believe we are putting in the actions needed for schools to be able to be safely returned but also play our part in beating this virus."
He insisted that there was no chance of schools being closed in January: "We are absolutely confident that all schools are returning. You're going to see over 85% of primary schools returning on Monday morning, you're going to be seeing exam cohorts going back right across the country on January 11."
He added that he is “absolutely confident” that secondary schools will be able to run a mass Covid testing regime.
He said that in “exceptional cases” some 1,500 members of the armed forces would be on hand to help the testing effort in schools.
Boris Johnson has refused to rule out a full national lockdown altogether, saying it was “an option we considered intensively” before deciding to keep going with tiers for now.
He said that until the impact of Tier 4 on virus rates was known, the next step was still “a bit of an open question”.
So far, just over 2.4 million cases have been confirmed in the UK and 72,548 deaths. In the past 24 hours the country has seen 53,135 new daily infections, as well as 414 deaths.
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