Coronavirus latest news: ‘Not sensible’ to rule out restrictions now, says Boris Johnson

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Winter lockdown ‘absolutely last resort’, says vaccines minister

A winter lockdown would be an “absolutely last resort” in the face of rising Covid-19 cases in the colder months, according to a Government minister.

Speaking to Sky News, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “Lockdowns would be an absolutely last resort.

“We’re about to embark on a massive booster campaign and of course a flu vaccination programme – I am concerned about flu, we haven’t had much flu circulating anywhere in the world, and in a bad year we could lose up to 25,000 people to flu.”

Asked whether he could guarantee families could spend Christmas together, the Conservative MP said: “The important thing to remember is that, as we embark on the winter months, viruses have an inbuilt advantage, whether it be flu or the Covid virus. As (England’s chief medical officer) Chris Whitty set out yesterday, it would be foolhardy to think this thing has already transitioned from pandemic to endemic.

“The direction we’re taking – a massive booster campaign, a varied surveillance system, a really fit for purpose test and trace system – that is where we think we will be able to end up, confident that we have the infrastructure in place to deliver on this.

“But of course, we have to have contingency planning. All the time we have information coming in on how the virus is behaving.

“Winter gives the virus an inbuilt advantage – boosters reduce that advantage by hopefully taking the most vulnerable out of harm’s way.”