This is what a circuit-breaker lockdown could mean for England as Government faces pressure
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Government are facing pressure to impose a so-called ‘circuit-breaker’ lockdown in a national response to rising coronavirus infections in England.
Earlier in October, Mr Johnson announced a three-tier system of restrictions for local authority areas in England in a bid to simplify and standardise previous ‘local lockdown’ rules.
But this week has seen a number of experts call for a more national approach from the Government before it is too late to act against the rising infection rate.
A ‘firebreak’ lockdown began in Wales on Friday, October 23 and will run until Monday, November 9.
People must stay at home and are not permitted to meet people they do not live with. Bars, restaurants and non-essential shops have also closed.
In Northern Ireland, schools were closed for two weeks over the half-term break while pubs and restaurants were ordered to shut for four weeks from Friday, October 16.
The PA news agency has taken a look at what a circuit-breaker could look like if imposed in England.
*What is a ‘circuit-breaker’ and how would it differ to the full lockdown imposed in March?
A circuit-breaker lockdown in England could involve people cutting almost all contact with anyone outside their own household, the shutting of non-essential businesses and limits on travel.
The idea is to interrupt the flow of the virus and allow time for a longer term plan to be put in place, before cases overload the NHS.
There would also likely be a time limit and a clear end date for the lockdown.
A decision would also have to be made about whether schools should be shut. Officials may decide that it would be best to keep them open.
This issue is the reason why some experts thought the October half-term would have been a good time for a circuit-breaker as it would have minimised disruption to education.
When could it happen?
Some experts appear to think it should have happened already with warnings that time is of the essence and ministers urged to be ‘tougher and quicker’ in response.
Documents published as the Prime Minister announced his tiered system of restrictions revealed that a circuit-breaker lockdown was at the top of a shortlist of interventions recommended by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) in September.
There have been suggestions that a lockdown could be imposed before and after Christmas with a relaxation of the rules in between so that families could enjoy the festive period.
*What is the Government saying about any stricter national measures?
Home Secretary Priti Patel was asked about a national lockdown this week and said: “Well I think at this stage of course we can rule nothing out because we are a Government that is focused on making sure that we stop the spread of this virus and also (that) we protect public health.
“So we have been using, and we are using and we will continue to use, every single means available to us to do exactly that.”
But Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said the Government will ‘try everything in our power’ to avoid a ‘blanket national lockdown’.
He said the Government’s ‘very firm view’ is that a short national circuit-breaker lockdown would be the wrong approach.