Priti Patel says the government 'are being proactive' in its latest response to coronavirus
The Home Secretary’s comment came days after the hurried cancellation of Christmas mixing rules and introduction of 'stay at home' orders in the South East, and during frantic negotiations with France to try to reopen Channel ports.
Several countries have closed their borders to the UK while France put a ban on freight lorries from Britain entering the country - sparking concern over the supply of fresh food over the Christmas period.
The Government's Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance also set alarm bells ringing last night by saying that the new strain was already out of control - and had spread across the UK.
When asked about whether a nationwide lockdown was inevitable, Ms Patel said: “First of all, we follow the data, the science, and the advice of the medical professionals that are talking to the government. If they were to say to us, these measures need to come in, as they did over the weekend, then clearly we will undertake measures. Everything is under review… we know that this virus has been mutating in many, many ways, and this new strain is more spreadable".
When pressed by Charlotte Hawkins over whether it was too late to take action and whether the government are on the ‘back foot’, she said: “We are being proactive in every sense of the word. The measures are constantly under review – when the circumstances change, when the data changes, the government acts incredibly quickly and the public saw that at the weekend”.
Ms Patel denied that the government was acting in a "last-minute" way, but was unable to say whether all children will be back in classrooms in January.
"That planning is underway right now. The Department for Education are working with schools – that happens automatically. We want everyone to be kept safe, we want schools to be safe environments – this is why we’re bringing testing into our schools”.
She also insisted it was important to maintain "perspective" on the disruption at Channel ports caused by France’s closure of crossings to freight traffic.
"Discussions are underway right now – that’s very much for the Secretary of State (Grant Shapps), who’ll be making an announcement later today. I should emphasise right now that throughout this pandemic, we have kept the short straits open, and the freight coming into this country has been consistent," she said.
On potential food shortages, she said: “It’s important to recognise that only 20% of our goods come through the short straits. I think we have to put this into context. The majority of our goods come into the country through other means – and there are plenty of supplies in our shops. I don’t think it’s fair to say there are shortages at all”.