Nurseries could close and face masks made compulsory in tougher lockdown

Scientists and officials are calling for the Government to tighten coronavirus rules by closing nurseries and places of worship and making masks mandatory in busy outdoor areas. 

Coronavirus and its mutant strain is ‘out of control’ in the UK with Friday recording the highest daily death toll since the start of the pandemic with 1,325 fatalities. 

Currently schools are closed until at least February, with only vulnerable children and those of critical workers allowed to attend, but nurseries have been allowed to remain open. 

Some scientists and government figures, including Labour leader Keir Starmer, want stricter rules that also force nurseries to close. 

Mr Starmer today told the BBC he thinks nurseries ‘probably should be closed’. 

He said: ‘I think there is a case for looking at nursery schools, we’re talking to the scientists about that.

‘I think people are surprised that primary schools were closed but nurseries aren’t.’

He thinks delivering on the vaccine programme targets is the best way to reopen schools.

Mr Starmer said: ‘It is very difficult to see how we can start lifting restrictions in any meaningful way until the vaccine programme, at least that first part of it, is rolled-out successfully.’

Pressed on whether reopening was subject to inoculating teachers, he answered: ‘No, I don’t know that it necessarily is, although if that can happen that would be a good thing.

‘This argument that there are sectors where there is a very strong case for vaccination for obvious reasons, and I understand that and we are going to have that to accommodate that, quite frankly.

‘But at the moment, we do need to focus on those who are most likely to go into hospital and tragically to die.’

Anthony Costello, a Sage member, UCl professor of global health and former WHO director, told The Mirror: ‘We are in a national crisis with a pandemic out of control.

‘We should have no nurseries open, no synagogues, no churches, no mosques. We should have compulsory masks, two-metre distancing.

‘We have to take this really seriously – that’s what Asian states did.

‘The longer we allow it to go on transmitting, the quicker we are going to get a resistant virus to a vaccine, then we are in real doo-doo.’

Health Secretary Matt Hanncock and other ministers are considering making face masks mandatory in busy outdoor spaces, The Sun reported on Friday. 

London mayor Sadiq Khan called for masks to be worn in supermarket queues echoing his previous pleas for face coverings to be compulsory on busy streets during the Christmas shopping season. 

He has also pushed the Government to close places of worship as he declared a major incident in the capital on Friday after the infection rate surpassed 1,000 per 100,000 people.

Chairman of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) Professor Peter Horby told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that it is too early to tell whether the current measures are enough to curb this wave. 

He said: ‘Whether the current restrictions are enough, I think it remains to be seen. It will be a week or two before it becomes clear. 

‘They may be sufficient but we have to be very vigilant and if there’s any sign that they’re not, then we’re going to have to be even stricter I’m afraid.’

The Government is yet to show clear signs of willingness to tighten its restrictions. 

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove previously told reporters: ‘It’s absolutely vital that traditions of public worship can continue, and I think it’s a very important part of the life of the nation.’

A senior source told The Telegraph the Government’s strategy is to be stricter about enforcing the current rules instead of introducing tougher ones. 

The National Police Chiefs’ Council and College of Policing (NPCC) issued new advice to forces on January 6. 

Officers were told that ‘enforcement can follow without repeated attempts to encourage people to comply with the law’.

Initially, advice issued on December 9 said: ‘We police by consent. The initial police response should be to encourage voluntary compliance.’

Mr Hanncock told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show he does not ‘want to speculate’ about the prospect of stricter rules. 

‘The most important thing is that people stay at home and follow the rules that we have got,’ he said.

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