Boris Johnson warned last night that the UK "would see a second wave" as he pondered six months of "on-off" restrictions to combat the surge in coronavirus cases.
The prime minister, fearing the country is six weeks behind Spain and France, said it was "inevitable" that a second wave would hit Britain.
He is currently reviewing nationwide "on-off" restrictions for six months amid concerns on Downing Street that the public is ignoring the rules for social gatherings.
The new approach of getting the country through the winter would alternate it with intervals of relaxation during times of stricter measures.
Fortnightly "breakers" would temporarily put tight restrictions across the country to quell the virus before being lifted for some time and reintroduced when necessary.
Measures could include bans on social contact between households, closing hospitality and leisure facilities such as bars and restaurants or restricting their opening hours.
Boris Johnson warned last night that the UK "would see a second wave" as he pondered six months of "on-off" restrictions to combat the surge in coronavirus cases
19-year-old student Emily Gittings has her temperature taken before going into a mobile coronavirus testing unit for asymptomatic staff and students set up in a car park at the University of Portsmouth
A graph shows where the latest restrictions are being enforced across the UK
Have a Cobra meeting, Sturgeon prompts
Nicola Sturgeon and Sir Keir Starmer yesterday urged the Prime Minister to convene an emergency Cobra meeting this weekend to discuss the rise in cases.
The first Scottish minister said she had asked for a meeting between Boris Johnson and the decentralized administrations.
She also warned of further national restrictions, telling Scots that "hard but necessary" decisions may have to be made in the next few days.
Ms Sturgeon said she hopes to avoid a second national lockdown, adding: "Ideally we can have a common approach across the UK." She added that she couldn't remember the last time she spoke to Mr Johnson. The union leader Sir Keir repeated her request. He said, "This is the time for quick, decisive national action."
Ms. Sturgeon claimed that most of the recent discussions between the government and the three decentralized administrations concerned the cabinet minister, Michael Gove, rather than the prime minister.
The government is also exploring the possibility of introducing "targeted shielding" that would give people with serious medical conditions tailored advice.
Unlike before, when more than two million people across England were given blanket orders to stay at home for several months, individuals were given more specific recommendations based on how vulnerable they were.
In No. 10 there is concern that people are violating the “rule of six” that came into force in England on Monday.
Mr Johnson said last night he was considering whether the government should "go further" than current national restrictions.
He said: "We are looking very closely at the spread of the pandemic in the past few days and there is no question, as I have said for several weeks, that we can expect (and) that we will now see the second wave coming in . We see it in France, in Spain, all over Europe – I'm afraid it was absolutely inevitable that we would see it in this country. & # 39; Spain recorded 239 deaths in a single day this week.
The prime minister insisted that a second lockdown is the "last thing anyone wants" but said current measures should be "reviewed".
He added, “On Monday we put in place the measures we were taking, the 'Rule of Six', to really try to limit people's activities and introduce a new buffer. At the same time, it is crucial to adhere to the basic rules of social distancing – hands, face, space – everyone has to do that if we want to keep beating this thing.
“But if we look at this particular corner and what is happening now, we will of course keep an eye on everything. I don't want to get into a second national lockdown at all – it's the last thing anyone wants.
A graph shows the number of coronavirus infections registered in the UK per day
“I don't want to take any major lockdown measures at all, we want to keep the schools open. We want to keep the economy as open as possible, we want to keep companies running. Of course we can only do that if people follow the instructions. & # 39;
When asked about the possibility of a two-week half-time in October to get a brief lockdown, Mr Johnson said, “We want to keep the schools open, that's going to happen. We want to try to keep all parts of the economy open as much as possible. & # 39;
Earlier in the day, Matt Hancock suggested that action should be taken over the next year.
The Minister of Health said: “The strategy is to keep the virus as low as possible while protecting education and the economy. And doing all we can for the cavalry looming – the vaccination and mass tests and treatments that this country has frankly developed more than any other in the world. & # 39;
National or local lockdown, shielding, curfew or nothing? With Covid infections doubling every week, the debate rages … what is best for the UK, asks BEN SPENCER
It's the UK debate. Covid infections are doubling every week and experts believe the death toll will rise soon. Should ministers act quickly to stop a second wave or hold back to prevent further damage to the economy? With no easy options, these are some of the options they are considering.
Just continue with the current restrictions until spring.
On the first day after the strict coronavirus curfew was introduced, Newcastle revelers enjoy drinks
PROS: The March lockdown successfully contained infections but had a devastating impact on businesses, education and the NHS. Boris Johnson is desperate to avoid repetition. There is a strong argument that the need for action is nowhere near as urgent as it was in spring. We now know that the virus only affects the elderly. Doctors can treat it much better and they now have effective drugs. And while our test system isn't what it should be, the capacity is 25 times larger than it was in March. Mortality rates are tiny right now – suicides, flu and pneumonia claim far more lives than the dreaded coronavirus.
Cons: It is clear that Covid is spiraling out of control in France, Spain and the US. If the UK doesn't do something, it can go the same way – with a wave of deaths as infections spread from youth to vulnerable groups.
CHANCE OF THIS HAPPENING: 1/5
Local restrictions already in place across much of the UK with 13 million people could be expanded if outbreaks flare up.
PROS: Targeted, proportionate restrictions in virus hotspots slow down the spread and protect the rest of the country. This was successfully done in Leicester over the summer, with prices falling quickly.
Cons: Such specific measures rely on an effective testing and tracing program – and at the moment the system is not up to date. Critics also point out that rates have actually continued to rise in many parts of the Northwest that have been restricted for weeks are. And with the local lockdown extended to the northeast and Lancashire, it now affects more than 13 million people. Since the lives of so many British citizens have been cut short, this is arguably just a national lockdown imposed by secrecy. Local actions are also controversial – national unity will be badly hit if only half the country is allowed to celebrate Christmas with the family.
CHANCE OF THIS HAPPEN: 4/5
Most young people are hardly affected by Covid. So a logical solution is to shield older people.
Most young people are hardly affected by Covid. So a logical solution is to shield older people
PROS: This could protect the most vulnerable while also allowing the rest of the population to keep the economy going. According to reports, the government already has tentative plans to assign a "risk assessment" to anyone over 50.
Cons: A raw version was used during the initial lockdown, asking 2.2 million people with cancer, asthma, and other conditions to stay inside. This scheme was fraught with problems – in fact, many of those asked to protect were not particularly vulnerable. Any new system would have to be far more targeted. But it would depend heavily on age – by far the biggest risk factor for Covid. This is rejected by many retirees who see themselves as perfectly healthy. It is also impossible to effectively shield those who need it most – nursing home residents who need contact with caregivers.
CHANCE OF THIS HAPPENING: 4/5
Curfews for bar and restaurant opening have already been used in many areas – and could be rolled out nationwide.
PROS: The surge in infection rates this summer was due to young people gathering in pubs, homes and at illegal raves. Curfews, which are being tried out in Bolton and other areas, are designed to prevent this from happening by closing restaurants and pubs at 10 p.m. This is arguably a proportionate response – it is better to ask the pubs to close an hour or two earlier than to force them to close completely.
Cons: It is clearly harmful to the hospitality industry and is widely viewed as a deterrent restriction on personal freedoms. Curfews can only do so much. After all, the majority of the population is not on the road after 10 p.m.
CHANCE OF THIS HAPPENING: 4/5
This is the option that will be considered most carefully. Ministers hope a brief embargo of just two weeks will stop the pattern of infections and reinfections that are driving the cases high.
PROS: If people fail to meet and interact, the virus cannot be transmitted between them, the chain of transmission is broken, and infection rates no longer rise. If done quickly, it can nip the problem in the bud before rates soar to dangerous levels. And when imposed over the October half-year, it will have a limited impact on children's education. Scientists hope that such a measure will also give room to breathe so that the test program gets back on track. And if the infection rates drop enough, it can even end up around Christmas.
Cons: Scientists fear cases will pick up again once restrictions are lifted. This increases the country's prospect of an on-off lockdown pattern until a vaccine becomes available. Two weeks just might not be long enough – which means restrictions drag on and on, leading to a complete lockdown.
CHANCE OF THIS HAPPENING: 4/5
A return to spring-style nationwide measures that resulted in most people being forced to work from home, with schools, non-essential shops and workplaces closed.
A return to spring-style nationwide measures would have most people work from home as venues such as pubs are closed
PROS: When Covid infections spiral out of control and coincide with a bad winter flu season, the death toll can be huge. Mr Johnson might have no choice but to order another lockdown. There are also ways to mitigate the blow – especially keeping schools open. Many scholars now believe that the last time schools closed was unnecessary. Children are not at risk from the virus, but their education and mental health have been immeasurably damaged by being kept at home. It also made it difficult for parents to work.
Cons: This is the "nuclear" option the Prime Minister does not want to take, an extreme that even the darkest scholars are not currently advocating. With the onset of “crisis fatigue” it could also be much more difficult for him to convince people to follow the rules a second time. And even a scaled-down version of national restrictions would do more harm than good. The economy is already below the waterline – a return to lockdown could sink it completely.
CHANCE OF THIS HAPPENING: 2/5
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