The government’s three-tier local lockdown policy was only hours old when calls for a national circuit breaker lockdown grew.
A short sharp lockdown, timed to coincide with the school half term, was recommended by the government’s scientific advisors SAGE.
Since documents around that advice were made public shortly after Boris Johnson announced the three tier approach on Monday the Prime Minister has faced growing calls to implement a circuit breaker to stem Covid-19 infections.
Rates have been increasing across the country and in Coventry over 100 new infections were recorded on a single day according to figures released yesterday.
In Coventry, in the seven days to October 11, Public Health England data shows Coventry’s infection rate was 160.69 per 100,000 people. That was made up of 597 cases over the same period.
Rates have also continued to rise in other parts of the country and, with the admission from scientists that even the highest tier – very high risk – restrictions may be not enough to curb the spread of the virus, calls for a circuit breaker lockdown have intensified.
So, if implemented, what would the restrictions be?
Possible restrictions in a circuit breaker lockdown
SAGE has not revealed what would shut in a circuit-breaker, but scientists advising the government said it would be as “strict and well-adhered to as the restrictions in late May”, reports BirminghamLive.
This means outlets opening for takeaway food and drink only, with no retailers open either other than those providing essential good such as supermarkets and pharmacies.
Only essential work and travel would be allowed, people would work from home if they can (as they already are), non-essential offices and shops would close, and people would be told not to go on holiday.
How would households be impacted?
Simple: no mixing.
This isn’t anything new for tier 2 or tier 1 areas, admittedly. But there would be no households mixing anywhere.
You’d be banned from mixing with anyone not in your household or bubble and told to stay at home as much as possible.
So the rules would be:
- pubs, bars and restaurants closed
- banned from mixing with anyone not in your household or bubble
- stay at home as much as possible.
- only essential work and travel would be allowed
- people would work from home if they can (as they already are)
- non-essential offices and shops would close
- people would be told not to go on holiday.
Should the UK adopt a circuit breaker lockdown?
0+ VOTES SO FAR
Is it likely?
It certainly seems closer than it has before, with London Mayor Sadiq Khan backing it alongside Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.
The Welsh Government will look at the coronavirus figures in Wales during the rest of this week to decide whether a circuit-breaker lockdown is necessary, First Minister Mark Drakeford said.
Mr Drakeford told Sky News: “We have other measures in place already, which may be helping us to begin to turn the tide.
“I want to see whether there is further evidence of that. If there’s not, if numbers continue to rise, then we will have to take further action.”
What do the experts say?
Short-term circuit-breaker lockdowns could be imposed regularly to help keep coronavirus under control until a vaccine is found, scientists have said.
Prof Matt Keeling, of the University of Warwick, said: “One of the problems here is that without some magic vaccine or cure we are facing a very, very long road on this and so we are always pushing things forward.
“If we don’t have a vaccine or some other form of therapeutic treatment then most people are going to catch this disease or a high proportion of the population will. So almost any measure, unless it in some way completely restructures our population, is always going to be pushing things further down the road.
“But we are thinking that hopefully there will be a vaccine at some point in the future, so it is thinking more about how we push things forward in time.”
He told a webinar that multiple, regular circuit-breaker lockdowns might be necessary as we learn to live with Covid-19, adding: “But if we can plan them sufficiently well in advance we can hopefully mitigate the worst impact they will have.”
Circuit-breaker lockdowns will help save lives by allowing time for doctors to improve various therapies for Covid-19, scientists have said.
Prof Graham Medley, part of Sage, said: “Even if there isn’t a vaccine treatments will get better with time. People who are infected in June next year are going to fare much better than people who were infected in June this year because the treatments will get better.”
But he said he feared that because it is impossible to quantify how many lives might be saved, a short-term lockdown might be rejected by politicians because it is seen as just “kicking the can down the road”.
Prof Medley refused to say exactly when such circuit-breakers should be imposed, saying only: “Coinciding it with schools closing is important and we have three major holidays, three half terms and they are possible options.
“The key is to do it when you don’t have to.”
He said it could be a possibility that the UK sees a couple of years of two-week half-terms to help keep the virus under control.
What do the public think?
The majority of the public back the introduction of a circuit-breaker lockdown over the October half-term, according to a new poll.
YouGov asked more than 3,390 adults in Great Britain on Wednesday whether they would support or oppose two weeks of tough restrictions later this month.
Some 68% of respondents said they would support the measure, compared to 20% who said they would oppose them, while 12% said they did not know.
The poll suggested that 65% of Conservative voters would back a circuit-breaker, compared to 76% of Labour voters and 75% of Liberal Democrats.
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