There’s a whole lot of conflicting information flying around today about the spectre of a ‘firebreak’ lockdown being imposed across the UK during the October schools’ half-term. The possibility of the contingency plan was apparently let slip by a member of Sage, the government’s scientific advisory committee, but it has since been vehemently denied by government ministers.
The debate is raging amid increased rates of new Covid infections and hospitalisations across the country, something that is expected to only get worse as children return to school en masse. There have been nearly 1,000 people a day admitted to hospital over the last week. However, Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi denied that such a plan was in place, insisting that the country’s vaccination programme meant that the situation was very different from that which saw repeated lockdowns through 2020 and the beginning of this year. A separate government source is reported by The Independent as saying that a ‘firebreak’ lockdown over half-term would only be used ‘as a last resort to prevent unsustainable pressure on the NHS.’
The government’s position follows previous announcements that it hoped that Covid would move from pandemic to endemic status (ie, that it’s always around but can be controlled) and that henceforth it would be ‘treated like flu’. However, there are fears that London might still see another winter lockdown this year, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that some of the powers of the temporary Coronavirus Act introduced last year would be extended for another six months. The measures were seen in some quarters as overly ‘draconian’ and there have been widespread calls for them to be removed. The government has yet to confirm which powers will be retained under the act and if and when they will be reviewed.