Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said England’s current lockdown measures, which came into force on November 5, will last until December 2. He said the Government would then “seek to ease” the lockdown and return to a tiered system, as before.
However, officials in the Department of Health have said on-off circuit breaker lockdowns may be necessary to combat future outbreaks.
Circuit breaker lockdowns refer to situations like the one the country is currently in – in which tight restrictions are enforced for a fixed period of time.
Health bosses have said there could be as many as “two or three” future circuit breaker lockdowns enforced, according to , which cited a source familiar with Department of Health discussions.
They added: “They are using a new phrase to sum this up – pumping the brakes.”
One other Department of Health official denied they had heard of the phrase, though deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van Tam has previously used phrases like such as having “brakes partially on” and similar when referring to lockdown measures.
Michael Gove, Cabinet Office minister, has previously admitted England’s current lockdown measures could last longer than the initial December 2 end date.
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Over the weekend, Professor Susan Michie, a member of the Government’s scientific advisory group Sage said the next couple of weeks would be “absolutely crucial” in determining whether the lockdown will indeed end as planned.
She told BBC Radio 4’s Today broadcast that the combination of weather and recent hopes of a coronavirus vaccine in the UK by this year “may be making people feel complacent.”
The expert added: “So I think for the next two weeks, everybody has to really get all their resolve together.”
According to the Government’s latest figures, there were 24,962 new cases of COVID-19 recorded in the UK yesterday with 168 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.
Meanwhile, there are suggestions Scotland could impose a ‘Level four’ lockdown across the middle of the country.
This would force the closure of non-essential shops, as well as bars, restaurants and gyms.
John Swinney, Scotland’s Deputy First Minister, has said such a move is “not inevitable”.
However, speaking on the BBC’s Politics Scotland programme, he warned: “People think that maybe the battle is over because the vaccine is coming – well the battle is not over, believe you me.
“We’ve got a really tough period ahead of us, which is why we are looking at difficult decisions about level four.”