The UK could go the way of Austria, Germany and other European nations by placing lockdown-style restrictions on unvaccinated people, a public health expert has warned.
Countries across the continent have either introduced or are considering new measures aimed at those yet to take up the jab in a bid to contain a fourth wave of infections.
In Austria, two million unvaccinated residents have been plunged into a 10-day lockdown, with permission to leave home limited to a small number of reasons.
Unvaccinated people in the Czech Republic will be banned from public events from Monday, while partial lockdowns including measures such as curfews have been announced in Ireland and the Netherlands.
And German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said the situation there is ‘dramatic’ after new cases hit their highest levels since the pandemic began.
Similar measures are expected to be implemented there within days, and Professor John Ashton, formerly regional director of public health for the North West of England, has said it ‘may come to that’ in the UK, too.
Asked what he thought about the idea of a lockdown of the unvaccinated as Austria has announced, Prof Ashton said on Good Morning Britain: ‘I fear that it might come to that.
‘We all need to be playing our part, and at the moment, it’s as though the thing is over. We really need to get back to wearing masks, social distancing and yes, passports.
‘This is not about civil rights, it’s about winning the battle with this virus and not throwing in the towel.’
On the prospect of Germany following suit and introducing tougher restrictions, he added: ‘I think we may well come to that.
‘But we really should be getting our secondary school kids with second vaccines before Christmas, we should be beginning to vaccinate primary school children.
‘There are still millions of people who are not double vaccinated in the UK. And that’s a problem because the virus is still circulating, and while the virus is circulating, there is the potential for more mutations.’
The coronavirus case rate in Germany is 639 new daily infections per million, only slightly higher than the UK’s 544. In Austria, it is nearly double at 1,145 per million.
But their vaccination rates are considerably lower than the UK’s, with only 67.5% and 65% of their respective populations double-jabbed compared with 80% of over-12s here.
Boris Johnson has warned of coronavirus ‘storm clouds’ gathering over Europe which threaten to wash up on these shores.
But the Prime Minister insists there is still nothing in the data to warrant Plan B measures, let alone a return to life in lockdown.