BORIS Johnson could impose a two-week social lockdown within days to act as a “circuit breaker” on the virus.
The PM hopes the short, sharp shock advised by top scientists will jolt Covid then let people resume their lives.
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Schools and offices will stay open, but pubs, restaurants and leisure facilities could be closed for at least a fortnight — going further than current curfews in some areas.
It comes as…
Boris said yesterday a second wave was “inevitable” yet insisted he will not impose the same strict lockdown as March. But he warned new restrictions are needed because the “rule of six” hasn’t done enough to quell the virus — with cases now doubling every week, and the R rate rising to between 1.1 and 1.4.
Birmingham Nightingale Hospital has also been told to be ready to start receiving patients within the next 24 hours.
The PM is spending the weekend agonising over his next move. Speaking in Oxfordshire yesterday, he said: “I don’t want to go into bigger lockdown measures at all.
“We want to keep schools open and it is fantastic the schools have gone back in the way they have. We want to keep the economy open as far as we can. We want to keep businesses going.
“What I don’t want to do is get into a second national lockdown. It’s the last thing anyone wants.
“I’ve said for several weeks we could expect a second wave.
“We are seeing it across Europe. It has been absolutely, I’m afraid, inevitable we were going to see it in this country.”
Figures showed infections have almost doubled in a week with 6,000 people a day picking up the bug in England.
It compares with just 3,200 a week earlier, according to the Office for National Statistics. The change in the R rate, estimated by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), means the virus is rising exponentially again.
Another 2.3million people will be living under local lockdowns from Tuesday after curbs were announced for parts of Merseyside, Lancashire, West Yorkshire and the Midlands.
That means a total of 12.3million — or one in five of the population — will be living under some form of lockdown even before new nationwide restrictions are announced.
Pubs and restaurants will have a 10pm curfew in parts of Lancashire and Merseyside.
New restrictions will apply in Wolverhampton, Oadby and Wigston in Leicestershire, and all parts of Bradford, Kirklees and Calderdale. They include a ban on socialising with other households.
The PM met with top advisers on Wednesday night, who told him that a short period of lockdown restrictions would soften the blow of the second wave on the NHS.
They warned him that failing to act quickly enough will leave hospitals deluged, forcing routine operations to be cancelled again.
Some urged him to coincide the fortnight lockdown with October half term, extending the break by a week.
Members of Sage believe the short lockdown tactic could be used repeatedly to quash waves of infections. Prof Andrew Hayward, of University College London, told Times Radio: “One of the measures is the idea of a ‘circuit break’, which is really instead of waiting until things have got out of control and needing that long lockdown.”
Asked if that “circuit break” was needed within days, he said: “Yes.”
Opposition leaders last night urged the PM to chair a Cobra meeting to co-ordinate immediate national action.
Earlier Downing Street confirmed a two-week lockdown was being considered, while stressing the need to avoid extended restrictions.
Dr David Rosser, chief of University Hospitals Birmingham, said of the city’s Nightingale facility: “We hope we are over-preparing but are nervous we are not.”
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