Govt refuses to rule out New Year lockdown as NI agrees six-week shutdown

A third national lockdown in the New Year has not been ruled out as Northern Ireland joins Wales in introducing a post-Christmas shutdown.

Northern Ireland's authorities announced on Thursday that the country will enter a six-week lockdown from Boxing Day.

Wales will also have a period of closed pubs and non-essential shops just around the corner, with a three-week shutdown set to begin straight after the festive period.

With five more million people in England moving into tier three status from Saturday as a result of soaring Covid cases, experts predict that plunging into yet another lockdown is inevitable.

Boris Johnson's official spokesman told journalists in a lunchtime briefing on Thursday: "We've been clear of the rationale behind the tiered regional approach and that's what we've set out for the time.

"That is designed to reduce the rate of transmission and reduce the R rate in areas of high prevalence.

"As we've said throughout we will obviously keep the latest data and the latest trends under review."

Downing Street sources insisted a third national lockdown was not currently being discussed but that anything that could slow the rate of infection in the future was not being ruled out, The Sun reports.

On Thursday another 35,383 coronavirus infections were recorded in Britain, according to the latest figures.

Mr Johnson urged Brits to have a "smaller and shorter" Christmas this year in light of the virus and to meet loved ones with caution, warning the five days of relaxed rules could add to the rise in cases.

Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty, said that with the mixing of households, more people were likely to catch the bug which would lead to increased hospitalisations and deaths.

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