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Watch: Coronavirus: Hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people 'could be told to shield' as cases rise
The plans are reportedly being considered by the government as infection rates continue to rise across the country.
Ministers are expected to outline a three-tier lockdown system next week, which could see vulnerable people being told to stay at home.
It comes as skills minister Gillian Keegan warned on BBC Question Time: “This is serious – it is getting out of control, and we have to do something to bring it back under control.”
On Thursday the latest data from the test and trace scheme showed the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 in the UK had increased by 56% in a week.
The government’s shielding advice at the start of the pandemic saw 2.2 million people with underlying severe health conditions told to stay at home and avoid non-essential face-to-face contact.
It ended in July but hundreds of thousands of people could be told to shield again for the winter under the government’s new plans.
The Times reported that a decision on shielding for the coming months had not been finalised and could be delayed amid fears of the impact it would have on people’s mental health.
The government is also reportedly planning to order the temporary closure of pubs, bars and restaurants in coronavirus hotspots.
Regional leaders have criticised the government for not consulting them ahead of changes, while Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said he would challenge any closures.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the government had “lost control of the virus” and urged ministers to “get a grip”.
He wrote: “It was an act of gross irresponsibility for anonymous Number 10 sources to tell a few newspapers on Thursday about plans to impose further restrictions on millions of people, without any detail, without any consultation and without any statement from the Prime Minister.
“This has significantly added to the sense of confusion, chaos and unfairness in the approach that is being taken.”
On Friday morning business minister Nadhim Zahawi insisted newspapers are learning the details through “leaks” and promised that no ministers are briefing out the details, or instructing their staff to do so.
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