A senior scientist has warned the government of Category 4 restrictions until Easter.
Professor Neil Ferguson told the BBC that the new strain of the Covid-19 virus means it is a race against time to obtain a vaccine.
He said it was too early to say whether the new strain of the virus would spread more easily to children.
Asked whether the new Tier 4 rules should be in effect until Easter, Professor Ferguson said: “It is possible. I would say that the government is being criticized for changing the policy all the time. This virus is unpredictable. How people do not act. Predictable.
“So we will follow the epidemic as we have always done and the policy will be shaped based on that. The levels will be reviewed every two weeks,” he added.
He added, “But I certainly agree that he does not seem optimistic at the moment.”
Professor Ferguson said the deciding factor was how quickly vaccines could be rolled out.
He said, “We said at the beginning in March that the problem of lockdown, despite its effectiveness in slowing the spread and saving lives, is just a pending measure, and the final answer to that is the introduction of vaccines.”
“The faster we get vaccines into people’s arms, the faster we will be able to not completely return to normal, but at least we will be able to loosen restrictions.”
He said that although there is some evidence that the new strain is easier to transmit to children, this is difficult to prove.
He said, “There is a hint that this variant might strike children a little more effectively than previous variants – but it’s very difficult to prove causation.”
“I think what we’re going to see in the next two weeks despite the schools being closed is probably the decrease of all types of virus, but we’ll be tracking very carefully whether we can see differences in this rate of decline.”