The Government has reportedly drawn up a plan for a lockdown over half-term in October if hospitalisations with Covid-19 continue to rise.
Neil Shaw www.devonlive.com
According to a report in The i, the Government has drawn up plans amid fears of increasing pressure on the NHS.
A member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) told the newspaper the UK is about to enter “an extended peak” of infections and hospitalisations.
They said concern is growing that the health service faces being overwhelmed.
The Government has denied the reports, with a spokesman telling the Mirror: “It is not true that the Government is planning a lockdown or firebreak around the October half term.
“As set out in July, the Government retains contingency plans as part of responsible planning for a range of scenarios, but such measures would only be re-introduced as a last resort to prevent unsustainable pressure on the NHS.”
Boris Johnson is said to be ready to re-introduce mask wearing and social distancing curbs in public spaces and on transport. There is also a possibility that travel restrictions could return.
As well as plans for a ‘firebreak’ lockdown there could be longer restrictions lasting into November if case numbers become more serious. Half-term could be extended to become two weeks, according to the report.
“This is essentially the precautionary break that Sage suggested last year,” the Sage source told the paper.
“It would be sensible to have contingency plans, and if a lockdown is required, to time it so that it has minimal economic and societal impact.”
Hospitalisations have remained consistently above 900-a-day in recent days.
The Government is now considering spreading the vaccine to children as young as 12 and delivering a booster third jab to the most vulnerable people.
Winter flu season starts in October – which will add to the pressures on the NHS.
The vaccine has successfully reduced the number of deaths in the UK, but the number of people in hospital is putting excess pressure on the NHS
The number of hospitalisations was last week at its highest level since March.
Cases in Scotland have begun to surge with some experts pointing to the earlier return of schools north of the border.
They added: “Hospitals might be overflowing before deaths reach the same level. Acting early will prevent this level.”
The Government scientist added: “If it is a proper contingency plan, then you do need to plan for it. And to have some threshold or trigger for enacting or calling it off.”
When the Prime Minister backed a second lockdown in England on October 31 last year, there were 16,479 Covid infections and 1,461 hospitalisations. The latest figures show infections are almost double at 42,192, while there were 988 hospitalisations on 31 August.
“If you look at the current trends, hospitalisations are on a path to match the levels seen at the end of October last year,” another Government source said.
“While deaths are high compared to last year and are unlikely to hit the levels as seen last autumn because the vaccines are doing their job, it is the admissions that will push the NHS to the brink of collapse if they do not fall soon.
“On top of that we have an expected resurgence in hospitalisations for other respiratory illnesses like flu. If the current high levels of admissions for Covid continue the NHS will not be able to cope, so a firebreak lockdown is by no means out of the question.”