Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 24 October 2020

CORONAVIRUS

‘Circuit-break’ second national lockdown looms as UK’s Matt Hancock reveals government strategy

Hospital admissions have doubled in eight days , he said

The UK government is weighing up a new ‘circuit-break’ lockdown that would restrict socialising but also try to keep the economy open.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock refused today to rule out a full-scale second national lockdown as the country faces rising number of cases and new local lockdowns were announced.

He outlined a new strategy of "circuit break" restrictions that focuses on combatting the close contact social settings that are the cause of most infections, while allowing workplaces and schools to stay open.

“The strategy is to keep the virus down as much as is possible while protecting education and the economy and doing everything we possible can for the cavalry that’s on the horizon of the vaccine and mass testing and the treatments.”

Essentially, that means hospitality businesses like restaurants and bars would close or reduce hours, so that other sectors and education stays open.

Restrictions could also be reintroduced in some public spaces nationally for a few weeks as part of the circuit-break plan. It is not clear whether it will include ordering a more widespread use of mask.

Speaking on the BBC’s Today programme he said most people in the UK were contracting the illness from friends and family rather than at work.

Hospital admissions were doubling every eight days, but he refused to say whether or not another national lockdown would be imposed next month.

When asked about the circuit-break strategy on BBC’s Today programme, he said: “We want to avoid a national lockdown. That is the last line of defence. We want to avoid that.

“I have learned not to ever rule anything out however it is not the proposal that is on the table.

“Because of extra evidence from contact trace systems we know the vast majority of transmissions are happening in social settings.

“In the local interventions, it’s about saying you should not socialise with people from outside your household, ie people you don’t live with. In work places we have Covid-secure rules and in schools we have Covid-secure rules.”

He added there was an extra challenge with universities and ensuring students follow Covid- rules off campus.

More than 10 million of the UK’s 67 million population are in some form of local lockdown.

More restrictions will start on Tuesday in Lancashire, Merseyside, parts of the Midlands and West Yorkshire.

Separate households will be banned from meeting, and there will be some early closures ordered of restaurants and pubs.

New figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimated that 59,800 people in homes in England had coronavirus in the week ending September 10.

That is an increase of about half on the previous week.

ONS said there was clear evidence of higher infection rates in the North-West and London.

The UK has reported the fifth largest number of coronavirus deaths, after the United States, Brazil, India and Mexico, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University of Medicine.

Parts of Europe are gearing up for new restrictions to stop the coronavirus, after the World Health Organisation warned of "alarming rates of transmission".

France is rolling out new curbs for major cities as new cases hot about 10,000 a day.

In Spain, new restrictions are expected as Madrid officials warned that the region's healthcare system was coming under growing pressure.

Covid-19 cases started to rise again in Britain in September, with between 3,000 and 4,000 positive tests recorded daily in the last week, but that is below a high of 6,000-7,000 during the first wave of the epidemic.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has faced criticism for his initial response to the outbreak and for recent attempts to ramp up testing.

Updated: September 18, 2020 06:57 PM

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