Half term lockdown: Will there be a two-week national lockdown in October?
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The number of UK coronavirus cases has been a cause for concern in recent weeks. Most recently local lockdowns have been put in place in parts of North East England – including Newcastle, Sunderland and County Durham. Further lockdowns have also been announced for Lancashire, Merseyside, the Midlands and West Yorkshire to start next week.
But if local lockdown measures fail to be effective, the Government has made clear another national lockdown could be possible.
According to the Financial Times, experts on the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) and the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M) have suggested a lockdown in October on a national scale.
The timing is thought to reflect the need to minimise the amount of time children miss from school.
A member of Sage told the FT: “As schools will be closed for one week at half-term, adding an extra week to that will have limited impact on education”.
In many areas local lockdown measures have been put in place over the last few months, with the first being implemented in Leicester.
Through these local restrictions, ministers hope full lockdowns like the one implemented in March can be avoided again.
But Health Secretary Matt Hancock has suggested the Government is “prepared” to introduce another national lockdown if the current local measures fail to be effective.
Mr Hancock said the current policy was “targeted interventions” but “a national lockdown is the last line of defence”.
He added: “As we saw in the spring, it is the thing that we can do to keep people safe if that’s needed.
“So we’re watching vigilantly, but we can see the number of cases accelerating, and we’re prepared to do what it takes both to protect lives and to protect livelihoods, and of course, both are so important.
“We want to avoid a national lockdown but we’re prepared to do it, if we need to.”
To prevent another national lockdown Mr Hancock urged the public to stick to the new ‘rule of six’, stating that it was “absolutely critical” guidance is followed.
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He added: “Also, if people have tested positive, or if people have been in close contact with somebody who tests positive, that they self-isolate.
“And if we do all these things, then we can avoid having to take serious further measures.”
The PM himself has made very clear he wants to avoid another national lockdown at all costs.
This was confirmed by a Downing Street spokesperson this week, who 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.”
As rumours of another national lockdown continue to prompt concern, problems with the NHS Test and Trace system are also attracting criticism.
The system has struggled to deal with the rising demand for coronavirus testing in recent weeks.
The NHS state most people get their test results back the day after their test, and the service aims to return all tests within 48 hours.
But recent statistics show only one third of tests came back in 24 hours in the week leading up to September 9
Head of NHS Test and Trace Baroness Dido Harding addressed the Science and Technology Committee this week.
She told them the service aims to hit capacity for more tests next month, stating: “I am certain we will need more as we go beyond the end of October. We have plans to go beyond 500,000 a day.”
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