Watch: UK 'could' lockdown unvaccinated people
The UK could follow the lead of Austria, Germany and Slovakia in locking down the country for unvaccinated people, a medical expert has suggested.
Austria on Monday introduced restrictions for people who had not been given the COVID jab, following a spike in cases.
And Germany is set to follow a similar path, with an announcement expected in the next few days.
Case rates in the UK remain lower than many of its European cousins but John Ashton, a former regional director of public health for north-west England, has said it “may” be the case that lockdowns for the unvaccinated would be needed here.
Asked what he thought about locking down people who had not had the jab, he told Good Morning Britain on Thursday: “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.”
Austria has one of the highest infection rates on the continent, with a seven-day incidence of 971 per 100,000 people, with more restrictions – both at regional and national level – being considered.
On Thursday, the country announced a full lockdown for the two most affected provinces of Salzburg and Upper Austria from next week.
Slovakia has also announced a lockdown for the unvaccinated as it reported record daily cases of around 6,500 in recent days.
In Germany, where a partial lockdown is set to be announced this week, 65,371 new COVID cases were reported on Thursday – an increase of one third from week ago.
On whether the UK will follow the lead of Austria, Slovakia and Germany, Ashton 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.”
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 such as going to work or buying food.
Slovakia is one of Europe's least vaccinated countries, with 45% of population vaccinated compared to the EU average of 64.9%, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
In an effort to get more people to come forward for their jab, Slovakian prime minister Eduard Heger said the government would allow only vaccinated people to attend large events, and set rules for testing at workplaces.
Non-essential shops and services, sports, wellness and hotels will be open only for vaccinated people or those who had overcome COVID in the past six months.
Boris Johnson has so far resisted calls from some to implement the government’s tougher Plan B for winter lockdown, saying the data did not show, at the moment, that any additional measures were needed.
However, he could not rule out a Christmas lockdown when questioned this week, warning that “storm clouds” forming in Europe could only be avoided if people had their booster jab.
The government said a further 201 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for COVID as of Wednesday, bringing the UK total to 143,360.
As of 9am on Wednesday, there had been a further 38,263 lab-confirmed COVID cases in the UK – a drop from 39,329 on the same day last week.
Watch: PM: The unvaccinated will make all the difference to Christmas