The prime minister is holding talks this weekend on whether to increase coronavirus restrictions in England, a source close to No 10 has indicated, as the Labour Party and Scotland’s first minister repeatedly urge him to call an emergency Cobra meeting.
While the source said that Boris Johnson had meetings about the coronavirus crisis every day, it follows an announcement by Mr Johnson on Friday that the UK is now “seeing a second wave coming in” and that national lockdown measures may be necessary.
New figures show coronavirus infections may be doubling in the UK every seven days.
In light of the surging tide of new cases, leading scientist Professor Neil Ferguson called on the prime minister to act “sooner rather than later” in announcing further restrictions.
Professor Ferguson, whose modelling formed the basis for lockdown plans in March, warned that the UK faces a “perfect storm” following a relaxation of restrictions over summer and schools reopening.
“Right now we are at about the levels of infection we were seeing in this country in late February,” Professor Ferguson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“If we leave it another two to four weeks we will be back at levels we were seeing more like mid-March. That’s clearly going to cause deaths because people will be hospitalised.”
He added: “I think some additional measures are likely to be needed sooner rather than later.
“We have in some sense a perfect storm right now of people, as they have been told to, getting back to normal, schools reopening, a surge in cases, so therefore the testing system is under strain.
“So unfortunately we do have to roll the relaxation of measures back a little bit and get contacts down in the population.”
Meanwhile, Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, has reiterated her call for a four-nations Cobra meeting, urging the consideration of “co-ordination and alignment” in policy.
Ms Sturgeon tweeted: “Given serious situation across UK, I have also asked again that a 4 nations COBR meeting takes place over next 48 hours. While each of the 4 UK nations will reach our own decisions – rightly and properly – it makes sense to seek as much co-ordination and alignment as possible.”
The Scottish first minister also said that she could not remember the last time she spoke to the prime minister.
Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, also repeated her party’s call for Mr Johnson to lead an emergency meeting this weekend, telling Sky News: “To keep people safe, what we need is immediate action, on things like the test, track and trace system so we know where this virus is in our areas. That’s how to avoid a lockdown.
“We need that Cobra meeting. We need to look at what the experts are saying and get on top of this.”
Keir Starmer had previously called for an emergency meeting, tweeting on Friday: “I’m asking the prime minister to convene a Cobra meeting and to update the country on the measures the government is taking to keep the virus under control, including to fix testing.”
Sadiq Khan has also called on the prime minister to lead a meeting as a matter of urgency.