Professor Chris Whitty warns new tier three Covid rules may not be enough to stop spread of coronavirus
Video report by ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston
More needs to be done to get on top of rising Covid cases, England's chief medical officer has warned as.
Professor Chris Whitty said he was “very confident” the new Covid tier rules being put in place would slow the spread of coronavirus, but suggested even the toughest measures under the new rules "may not be enough to get on top of it".
Speaking at a Downing Street press conference alongside the prime minister and chancellor, Prof Whitty added that the notion that restrictions can be imposed “without causing harm is an illusion”.
Robert Peston has analysis on the different in government action compared to the advice it's received:
The trio gave more information and answered questions on the new Covid alert levels announced by Boris Johnson earlier on Monday.
The new measures will see all parts of England classified as at medium, high or very high risk levels.
Mr Johnson said the new levels had been brought in to "simplify" local coronavirus restrictions, with the Liverpool City Region the first area to be placed under the toughest measures.
Watch the Downing Street briefing in full:
However, Prof Whitty signalled a warning that even tougher measures may be to come.
“We’re going to have to do more," Prof Whitty told a briefing at Downing Street. "And probably in some areas significantly more.
“The balancing act here, and in a sense that’s reflected by the fact the chancellor and I are standing here, is doing things which pull down the virus to the point which the R goes down below one but with a minimal impact on the economy that you can get away with.
“But none of us have any illusions about this and I would like to be really clear about this because I think we should not have any illusions.
“The idea that we can do this without causing harm is an illusion.
“It is a balancing act between two harms: a harm for society and the economy on the one hand and a harm for health on the other hand."
He said there is “clear evidence” that coronavirus is spreading around the country beyond those areas facing further restrictions, with the number of people with Covid-19 in England increasing since the start of September.
He added: “What we can see is that we need to go further or these rates will continue, inexorably, to rise.”
Also at the briefing, Prime Minister Boris Johnson denied the lockdown was eased too early in a move that some say damaged the north but favoured the south of England.
He said: “I think the difference between this bout of the pandemic and the first one is how much more localised it is.
“And we took measures on a national basis then at every stage and on the basis of the scientific advice.”
He added that the government is aiming to "get life back to as close to normal for Christmas" but added: "That is going to depend, I'm afraid, on our success on getting this virus down."
Meanwhile, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said local authorities entering Tier Three restrictions will get additional funding of up to £500m to help with enforcement and other logistics such as regional contact tracing systems.
Mr Sunak also vowed there will be "no gap in support" with measures to protect jobs and businesses to continue for six months.
He also announced an extra £1.3 billion of funding for Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland administrations “if they choose to do something similar”.
The chancellor also stressed that the existing furlough scheme will continue in October and the Job Support Scheme will be available from November and will run for six months.
On Friday, Mr Sunak expanded the Job Support Scheme, revealing that the government will pay two-thirds of wages for workers who are legally unable to attend their jobs due to lockdown restrictions.
He also said that businesses legally required to close in England will be able to claim cash grants of up to £3,000 per month and the money does not need to be repaid.
"I know people are frustrated at the prospect at further restrictions," Mr Sunak said.
"But I want to reassure you that we have a comprehensive plan to protect jobs and businesses in every region and nation of the United Kingdom...
"If your business can open safely but with reduced or uncertain demand, the government will directly subsidise people's wages over the winter giving businesses the option to bring people back to work on shorter hours rather than making them redundant," he said.
“This national programme will benefit people the same wherever they live and whatever job they do,” he added.
He added that to support the lowest paid workers, the welfare system has become "more generous and responsive".
He added: "Our winter economy plan will give people and businesses flexibility and certainty whether they are open or required to close."
Mr Sunak said it was wrong to suggest particular areas in the UK were being treated differently to others.
He told the briefing: “It’s wrong to say that any particular area has been treated any differently to any other, we value all jobs and all people’s livelihoods equally.
“The schemes that we have put in place are national so wherever you happen to be, whatever job you have, not just in regions in England but wherever you are in the UK, you’ll be treated the same.”
Mr Sunak said the level of government support is in line with other major European countries and described how the furlough scheme which began in March for three months has now ended up going on for eight months.
“Now, we are putting in place support that we believe is both sustainable and affordable for the long term,” he added.