Boris Johnson has defended his decision to break with scientific advice and implement regional rather than national lockdowns.
The prime minister told Parliament the three-tier restriction strategy “can bring down the virus”, but did not rule out going further.
It came as Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer argued that “tougher measures are now unavoidable” due to Mr Johnson’s “failure” to get a grip on the pandemic.
He said: “Having read and considered the Sage (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) advice I have genuinely concluded that a circuit-break is in the national interest – genuinely concluded.
“It is the failure of the prime minister’s strategy that means tougher measures are now unavoidable. That is Sage’s view.
“Sage has advised that a circuit-breaker should act to reduce R (number) below one, should reset the incidence of disease to a lower level and should set the epidemic back by approximately 28 days or more.
“All three are vital and that is why Labour backs it. So can the prime minister tell us, what is his alternative plan to get R below one?”
Mr Johnson replied: “The plan is the plan that Sir Keir supported on Monday.
“And the whole point is to seize this moment now to avoid the misery of another national lockdown into which he wants to go head-long by delivering a regional solution.”
Call to continue furlough scheme
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford later told the prime minister he will never be forgiven if he refuses to U-turn on the ending of the furlough scheme.
He said: “These half-measures don’t cover it. Thousands have already lost their jobs. The ONS has confirmed the highest rate of redundancies since 2009. We’re heading towards a Tory winter of mass unemployment, created by the prime minister and the chancellor.
“We know what the prime minister’s Tory colleagues are saying – the prime minister’s next job could be on the backbenches, he just doesn’t know it yet.
“If the prime minister won’t U-turn on his plans to scrap furlough, does he realise he will never, not ever, be forgiven for the damage he is just about to cause to people up and down Scotland?”
Mr Johnson responded: “As I say and I have said many times to Mr Blackford, this Government is continuing to support people across the whole of the UK.
“Many billions of pounds of Barnett consequentials, at least £5 billion in Barnett consequentials for Scotland alone.
“But one thing I will congratulate him on is the Scottish nationalist party’s support for the tiered approach, which I think is still their policy, unlike the party opposite. At least they’re showing some vestige of consistency in their normal gelatinous behaviour.”