British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Sunday tougher lockdown restrictions were probably on the way as COVID-19 cases keep rising, but that schools were safe and children should continue to attend where permitted.
COVID-19 cases in Britain are at record levels and the increase in numbers is fuelled by a new and more transmissible variant of the virus. The government has canceled the planned reopening of schools in and around London but teaching unions want wider closures.
Much of England is already living under the toughest level of restriction under a four-tier system of regional regulations designed to stop the spread of the virus and protect the national healthcare system.
But, asked in a BBC interview about concerns that the system may not be enough to bring the virus under control, Johnson said restrictions “alas, might be about to get tougher”.
“There are obviously a range of tougher measures that we would have to consider ... I’m not going to speculate now about what they would be,” he said.
Johnson sets policy for England, with rules in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales set by their devolved authorities.
Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon said her cabinet would meet on Monday to discuss possible further steps to limit the spread of the virus, and ordered Scotland’s parliament to be recalled.
Britain recorded 57,725 new cases of the virus on Saturday and has registered more than 74,000 deaths from the pandemic.
The government’s response has been heavily criticized. But the rollout of vaccines is set to accelerate on Monday with the first 530,000 doses of the newly approved Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines ready to be administered, Johnson said.
He hoped “tens of millions” would be treated over the next three months.