October half-term 'circuit-breaker' national lockdown 'still on table' if three-tier measures don't slow Covid-19

A 'CIRCUIT-breaker' national lockdown over October half-term is 'still on the table' if strict new three-tier measures don't slow the spread of coronavirus, a senior source has said.

Boris Johnson is set to make a national address today – and he's expected to say that Liverpool will be the first area to go into the toughest third tier of shutdowns.

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Greater Manchester and parts of West Yorkshire are set to follow.

However, the PM's colleagues in Cabinet believe the clampdown is a "gamble" to try and avoid shutting the whole country down for the half-term break.

Mr Johnson has reaffirmed his commitment to avoiding a second national lockdown if possible.

But as cases surge – particularly in the north-east and north-west – plans to shut pubs, bars and gyms in hotspots are set to be announced.

Under the measures, only one household or bubble will be allowed to meet up indoors, and travel in or out of the affected area will be limited.

As part of the measures, which could last for six months, restaurants, schools and universities will stay open.

One senior minister told The Sun a so-called 'circuit breaker' national shutdown when kids aren't at school is "still on the table" – although this has been publicly denied.

Suspicions were heightened in Westminster when a Commons holiday was hastily scheduled to coincide with schools being off later this month.

A "circuit breaker" lockdown – which could be used if infection rates continue to rise over the next fortnight – would likely include bans on socialising with other households, and telling people not to use public transport unless it is essential.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock last month refused to rule out a second national lockdown, although Mr Johnson previously said: "I don’t want to get into a second national lockdown at all, it is the last thing anybody wants."

A curfew on pubs and restaurants, forcing them to shut at 10pm, is already in place across the country.

But today, stricter new measures are likely to be brought in for millions of people living in the north of England – including that Brits will be banned from staying overnight in virus hotspots for a month.

Residents of any area deemed to be in the new “very high” top tier of Covid risk will not be allowed to leave their area for anything but essential travel and must return the same day.

Households won't be able to mix either indoors or outdoors, and people in 'red zone' areas won't be allowed to travel outside of their area for anything but work, education or for health reasons, The Sun has learned.

Pubs and bars will also close in those areas, but it is understood restaurants will be able to continue serving food until 10pm after a major backlash from regional leaders.

The move has yet to be signed off by Boris Johnson, who will make a national address about the new three-tier lockdown today.

However, one of the academics who demanded Britain go into lockdown in March has backed the plans for a shorter shutdown.

Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London predicted that 500,000 people would die in the UK back at the beginning of the pandemic in March.

And he believes that if schools stay open, officials must then shut down pubs and restaurants for a fortnight to stem the rising tide of cases.

Professor Ferguson warned: "All the teenagers do transmit the virus and we don't yet know if we can control the virus with high schools open.

"If we want to keep schools open we have to reduce contact in other areas of society more."

He said he though measures such as the extended half-term "circuit-breaker" lockdown needed to be considered to stop the skyrocketing case numbers without disrupting kids' schooling.

He has previously been accused of using dodgy modelling to come up with dramatic warnings of deaths from diseases such as swine flu.

What will happen in ‘tier three’ areas?

Liverpool is expected to be the first area to go into the strictest tier of new lockdown measures today

Under the plan, it's understood:

  • Brits will be banned from staying overnight in the worst-hit areas for the virus for a month
  • Residents of any area deemed to be in the new “very high” top tier of Covid risk will not be allowed to leave their area for anything but essential travel and must return the same day
  • Households will not be allowed to mix either indoors or outdoors
  • Pubs and bars will also close in those areas – although it is understood restaurants will be able to continue serving food until 10pm

Meanwhile, one of the main medical advisers to the British Government has warned that the country is at a 'tipping point' in its battle with the pandemic.

England's deputy chief medical officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, said in a statement that Brits are in a similar position to the one reached in March.

And Professor Peter Horby, who heads up the Government’s crucial New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group, said the country was in a "precarious position.”

Asked directly if we faced a second national lockdown, he said: "I think that's a possibility.”

The PM will hold a COBRA meeting this morning to determine the exact rates at which the new tiers will kick.

It's understood some virus hotspots in the south, including Exeter, could also be hit.

The Sun Says

MORE restrictions on hospitality and travel in the north of England will be the nail in the coffin for hundreds of struggling pubs and hotels.

And where’s the concrete proof that it will work? 

Yes, Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty has told MPs that he believes a “significant proportion” of exposure to coronavirus is happening in the hospitality sector, with very few transmissions taking place in the home. 

But his evidence — derived from contact tracing data at just 165 establishments — is hardly rock solid. And more recent NHS data suggests the opposite. 

In bringing councils into the loop on Track and Trace, Boris and his ministers have proved they’re capable of responding to evidence and using common sense. 

Now, they must apply the same principles to lockdown restrictions. 

If it can be proved beyond reasonable doubt that shutting down huge swathes of the economy is the only way to keep the virus under control, then draconian measures can be justified. 

But as even the World Health Organisation is saying lockdowns should be avoided, we don’t think conclusive proof will be forthcoming. 

And without it, the Government is making job-destroying, life-altering decisions off the back of conflicting, confused and flimsy evidence. 

The PM will then update MPs in the afternoon before addressing the nation in a press conference from Downing Street in the early evening flanked by the Chancellor.

Daily Covid-19 cases across the UK have fallen by more than 2,000 in the past 24 hours as 12,872 test positive for the virus and 65 die.

Cases have nearly tripled in the past two weeks — with a total of 603,716 people now having tested positive for coronavirus in Britain.

But the number of new infections are less than half of the Government's 'doomsday graphic', which warned of 50,000 cases a day by mid-October.

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