Government refuses to rule out third national lockdown for England in January

Watch: Eustice says ‘strict tiers’ will help avoid third lockdown

The government has refused to rule out a third national coronavirus lockdown for England in January.

Environment secretary George Eustice said on Monday that another lockdown in the new year is not off the table.

He told Sky News: “You can’t rule anything out because this is a rapidly developing situation.”

However, he added: “Provided we maintain the tiered approach for as long as necessary, I don’t think it will be necessary to go back into another full lockdown.”

His comments follow those made on Sunday by foreign secretary Dominic Raab, who warned there will be a third wave of coronavirus at the beginning of 2021 “if we don’t get the balance right”.

Asked on BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show if there could be a third national lockdown, Raab said: “We're doing everything we can to avoid that.”

England’s second national lockdown ends on Wednesday, with the country set to return to a three-tiered system of restrictions if the move is passed by MPs in a House of Commons vote on Tuesday.

The government and the devolved administrations have agreed to allow people across the UK to form Christmas bubbles of up to three households between 23 and 27 December (22 and 28 December in Northern Ireland).

Scientists have warned families to self-isolate for 10 days before Christmas to protect elderly relatives, and Christmas shoppers have been advised not to spend more than 15 minutes in stores.

The government has been urged to implement strict rules to avoid severe travel disruption over the Christmas period.

Areas in COVID hotspots will reportedly be moved from tougher tiers to soften a Conservative Party rebellion in the Commons against the reintroduction of the system.

On Monday, Eustice said up to 100 Tory MPs “have got concerns” about the new restrictions.

Girl wearing face mask on a Parisian street or at Christmas market looking at shop windows decorated for Christmas. Seasonal holidays during pandemic and coronavirus outbreak
Christmas shoppers have been urged not to spend too long inside stores. (Getty)

“The chief whip, obviously, will be talking to those MPs who have got concerns,” he said.

“I’ve seen suggestions that there could be up to 100 or so people that have got concerns.”

“I think there is great frustration with the emergency measures that we have had to take to deal with this pandemic.

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“We haven’t taken them lightly. We have had to take these to get the virus under control.

“What we need to show to those MPs and to the country at large is that we have got a clear route towards fixing this problem and turning the corner.”

Asked if the government would have to rely on Labour, which remains undecided, to get the coronavirus restrictions through the Commons, Eustice said: “It will depend on what other parties do.

“Yes, it will depend on what the Labour Party choose to do.”

Watch: Dominic Raab refuses to rule out third lockdown

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