MINISTERS are desperate to avoid an “extended” national lockdown like earlier this year but No10 warned today that it could happen if the virus isn’t stopped.
It came after reports the Government are looking at a possible “circuit breaker” nationwide lockdown as soon as next week, which could last for a fortnight.
The Health Secretary refused to rule out a second national lockdown this morning amid fears Covid cases are spiralling as high as 38,000 a day, and said the country faces a “big moment”.
It came as even more Brits were handed drastic local lockdown restrictions with Lancashire, Merseyside, Wolverhampton and West Yorkshire given new rules to come in from Tuesday.
Asked if the Prime Minister was considering a two-week so-called “circuit break” of new national Covid-19 restrictions, a Downing Street spokesperson told a Westminster briefing: “We have always been clear that our strategy is to keep the virus down as much as possible while protecting education and the economy.
“I would point to the words of the Health Secretary this morning where he said that we are prepared to take action if necessary.
“But we, obviously, want to avoid any extended lockdown.”
He added: “Our focus is to reduce transmission rates.”
The idea that No10 want to avoid an “extended” lockdown suggests they may be willing to bring in a temporary measure of days or weeks to try and put the brakes on instead.
This would likely include bans on socialising with other households, and telling people not to use public transport unless it was essential.
And it may include a curfew on pubs and restaurants too, forcing them to shut at 10pm – like is the case in other parts of the country under local lockdown at the moment.
It’s unlikely schools and workplaces would close at this point.
However, the Government has not ruled out a drastic shutdown of the economy like what took place back in March,
Experts on the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) and the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (Spi-m) have suggested a temporary measure to ministers, the Financial Times reported last night.
A separate report from the BBC claims the “circuit break of a few weeks” could be on the cards.
Boris Johnson is said to be considering new national restrictions – possibly as soon as next week – to try and get a grip on the growing crisis as cases double every week.
It comes as…
- Mr Hancock said the number of people going into hospital with the virus is doubling every eight days – and he feared more people would die
- Hundreds of drinkers hit the town for a last boozy night out before a North East lockdown comes into force today
- Lancashire, Merseyside, Wolverhampton and West Yorkshire have been given new local lockdown measures – to be in force from Tuesday.
- Scores of coronavirus hotspots across the country have emerged in recent weeks
- Coronavirus cases rose by 3,395 with 21 deaths recorded yesterday
- A new 90-minute coronavirus test is 94 per cent accurate, experts have revealed
- Yesterday the head of NHS Test & Trace admitted that calls about coronavirus tests were up to FOUR times higher than the current testing capacity
This afternoon it was confirmed by the Office for National Statistics that there were around 6,000 new cases of the virus, based on their modells.
Speaking to Sky’s Kay Burley this morning, Mr Hancock said: “The last line of defence is full national action and I don’t want to see that but we will do whatever is necessary to keep people safe in a very difficult pandemic.”
And he said: “I fear more people will die.”
He told Times Radio: “The last line of defence is national action.
“I want to avoid that but we can only do that if everybody follows the rules.
“We know that a national lockdown works because it did last time, and we can see in the figures that this is a serious moment.”
He added: “This is a big moment for the country…
“It is the thing we can do to keep people safe if that’s what’s needed.”
The PM hasn’t ruled out another national shutdown – although with the increasing number of lightning lockdowns across many regions, much of the country is already living with enforced changes.
Warning another shut down would be “disastrous”, the PM said on Wednesday: “I don’t want a second national lockdown.
“I think it would be completely wrong for this country and we are going to do everything in our power to prevent it.”
But he is believed to be waiting to see the impact of the rule of six is – which was introduced on Monday – and whether it has any impact on cases.