Senior cabinet minister Michael Gove has confirmed that the England-wide lockdown that starts on Thursday morning could be extended through December if the virus is not brought under control within the agreed period.
The lockdown is currently scheduled to end on December 2, but Gove confirmed that this date is only advisory and could be extended if the R number - the rate at which the virus is spreading - cannot be brought under one in that time.
Speaking to Sky News' Sophy Ridge, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said that the government 'will always take the decision in the national interest' and following the scientific evidence that is presented to them.
He added: "We are going to review it on December 2 but we are always driven by what the data shows.
"On the basis of what we've been told, we believe all the measures we are putting into place will reduce the rate below one."
However, when pressed on whether the nation could actually be facing more than a month of lockdown if the reinfection rate continues to rise or stays as it is, he finally admitted: "Yes."
Ridge asked: "So, it could be extended?"
Again, Gove responded: "Yes."
Expanding on that point, he added: "Well we want to be in a position where - and I believe that this is likely to be the case - we have an approach where, if we bring down the rate of infection sufficiently, we can reduce measures nationally and also reduce measures regionally."
Former Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Mark Walport, also appearing on the Sunday morning news programme, said that there is 'obviously a possibility' that the measures could last longer than the first lockdown as the infection rate will drop more slowly due to schools and educational settings remaining open.
He said: "The lockdown this time is not as severe as it was the first time round.
"So, the only way to know is going to be to see how quickly the new cases start dropping and of course as we know, there's a lag between a case developing and then hospitalisation, and then the terrible consequences of severe illness or death.
"It's unlikely to come down as fast as it did during the first lockdown, simply because we have got schools open.
"We have got more people working, and so the social distancing is not quite as much as the last period."
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