Second lockdown: Will it happen and what would it mean?
- Credit: PA
Amid reports that England is heading towards a second national lockdown next week to control the wave of coronavirus cases and save Christmas, we’ve looked at what it might entail, and how we might be affected.
• What is happening?
Prime minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce on Monday a nationwide lockdown for England which could be introduced on Wednesday and last until December 1. Earlier reports on Friday suggested Tier 4 restrictions would be imposed, putting half the country’s population into lockdown, but meetings between the PM, ministers and health experts decided on the need for a more stringent move.
A national lockdown still needs to be signed off on by cabinet, but it appears likely to be approved.
• What has brought this on?
It has become clear in recent weeks that Covid-19 is now spreading faster than the worst predictions of scientists. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) infection survey found cases “continued to rise steeply” in the week ending October 23, with an estimated 568,100 people becoming infected.
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Government scientists now believe at least 50,000 new cases of Covid-19 are occurring in England daily, and deaths could reach 500 per day within weeks.
They believe it is now too late for a two-week national circuit-breaker to have enough of an effect, that Tier 3 restrictions are not sufficient, and that a longer national lockdown is required to drive the reproduction number, or R value, of the virus below one.
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The moves are also designed to address the problem of pressure on the nation’s hospitals to cope with a second wave. A recent meeting of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) found the rate of infections and hospital admissions was now “exceeding the reasonable worst case scenario planning levels”.
• What would the national lockdown look like?
It is still to be finalised, but it is likely everything will be closed except essential shops and education facilities, which includes nurseries, schools and universities. Tougher measures for the most affected regions are also being considered.
• What is the envisaged end point?
As ever, while the world waits for a vaccine, the idea is to return the country and economy to normal as soon as is feasible.
Professor Jeremy Farrar, an infectious diseases expert and Sage member, tweeted: “The sooner we get on top of the disease, reduce transmission, R^1, the sooner we can get our society back to normal and the economy back on track.”
• Is England alone in this?
No. Second waves are hitting hard in various countries.
France, Germany and Belgium this week announced national lockdown restrictions. President Emmanuel Macron said France was in danger of being “overwhelmed” by a second wave that would be “harder than the first”. German chancellor Angela Merkel warned of a long, hard winter ahead.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the continent was “deep in the second wave”. Countries such as Poland and the Czech Republic, which were not too badly affected the first time around, are now suffering sharp increases in infection rates.
• Are nationwide lockdowns effective?
It appears so. The UK, Italy, Spain and France imposed national lockdowns when badly hit by the first wave. They were able to ease restrictions in early summer, including reopening travel involving countries on “safe” lists, but this was followed by rises in cases in the late summer, which have now increased dramatically, bringing the push for the lockdowns to be reimposed.
• How are other battles going?
Plans to increase Britain’s testing capacity at least appear to be on track. Mr Johnson promised this would reach 500,000 per day by the end of October, and the latest figures show it has hit 480,000.
Pharmaceutical companies continue to work to find a vaccine. While it is difficult to predict when one will be available, the head of the UK’s vaccine taskforce, Kate Bingham, this week told The Guardian there was a glimmer of hope one of the leading candidates could be approved by Christmas.
• What are Norfolk’s figures?
Public Health England figures for the seven days to October 26 show the number of Covid-19 cases in Breckland hit a record 200 cases per 100,000 people, compared to 104 the previous week - the seven days up to October 19.
There were 67 new positive cases recorded on October 26, taking the total number in Breckland over the previous seven days to 280.
Meanwhile, Great Yarmouth has hit a new high for the fourth day in a row with a further 36 cases pushing the town’s rate up to 162.1 per 100,000 people.
26 new cases in Norwich halts three days of falling rates and pushes the city back up to 111 cases per 100,000 people in the past seven days.
In total, the city has seen 156 new cases recorded in the seven days up to October 26, though this was slightly lower than the 162 in the previous week.
King’s Lynn and West Norfolk also saw a rise in new cases up from 37.7 per 100,000 in the week to October 19 to 68.7 in the seven days to October 26.
Just two of the nine local authority areas in Norfolk and Waveney saw falling numbers of infection rates.
North Norfolk saw cases fall to 29.6 per 100,000 in the seven days up to October 26, from 40.1 the previous week, with the total number of cases at 31, down from 42. South Norfolk recorded a drop from 58.9 to 49.7 per 100,000, with 70 new cases this week, down from 83 the previous week.
In total there were 883 positive cases across Norfolk in the week up to October 26, up from 844 the previous week. There were 167 new cases on October 26 alone.