North East UK news What coronavirus second wave rules could look like - major changes explored MetiNews.Com
MetiNews.Com - From over-50s shielding to bans on indoor meetings, we have rounded up the options raised to stop a coronavirus second wave across the nation
Breaking News ! People over 50 shielding, bans on indoor meetings and pubs closing again - could these measures come into force to prevent a second wave of coronavirus? A flurry of wild - unconfirmed - ideas have flown about in recent days after England recorded the first sustained rise in coronavirus cases since April. Boris Johnson drastically brought a halt to further unlocking measures on August 1, and imposed new restrictions on millions of people in northern England. But that might not be enough. The Chief Medical Officer has said we may now be at the limit of easing lockdown. And with the risk of transmission greater in winter, and schools to reopen in a month, something's got to give, reports The Mirror. It all demolishes Boris Johnson's pledge to return to "significant normality" by Christmas. Yet the truth is, we don't know what the new normal will look like. There are "tough choices" and "trade-offs" to be made; we just don't know what they'll be yet. So what might the next few months look like? Here, The Mirror's online political editor Dan Bloom gives a summary of what's rumoured and what the Government is saying. England's schools will 'definitely' reopen Ministers have insisted England's schools will "definitely" reopen to all pupils in September, full-time - despite fears of a second wave. Boris Johnson delayed plans to resume bowling alleys, casinos, skating rinks, wedding receptions and some beauty treatments from August 1 due to the spike. That sudden wave of caution led teaching unions to question plans to get all kids back in the classroom. Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT, called for greater clarity, as well as "sufficient time to review and, if necessary, adjust reopening plans." But Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said on Sunday that schools will definitely reopen fully in September. "We need to get all of our kids back to school," he told Times Radio. "Getting our children back into the classroom with that direct, face-to-face contact with their teachers will be a priority for the Government when we have to make those tough choices." (Image: PA) That means other things may have to close The most important two words from Robert Jenrick are these: "Tough choices". Scientists have warned you can't reopen everything in society and keep Covid-19 under control. Opening schools, even with social distancing in place, will mean more contact between people - and more risk. A paper produced by SAGE experts on May 4 warned of a "rapid exponential increase" in coronavirus in a scenario where all children return to school. Yet even without schools open, cases already appear to have been rising since lockdown was eased on July 4. That means the Government may have to choose what new restrictions to put in place in exchange for opening the classroom. England's Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty warned on Friday: "If we wish to do more things in the future, we may have to do less of some other things." The question is - what do we do less of? Read More Related Articles Over 50s could be told to stay home to prevent second lockdown, reports claim Read More Related Articles Joy as Newcastle Quayside Market returns with social distancing measures in place Ministers insist they don't want to shut pubs Scientists have speculated pubs and restaurants could be among venues to shut in order to keep schools open. Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick insisted: "We don’t have any plans to do that." Instead, he said, the Government will focus where it can on imposing local restrictions rather than national ones. ... But the Government can't rule it out While Boris Johnson obviously doesn't want to do it, Mr Jenrick refused to rule out the prospect of shutting pubs or restaurants nationally. Instead he said there were no "plans" to do so. Boris Johnson really, really doesn't want a second national lockdown The Prime Minister is desperate to avoid a second full, national lockdown that would cripple the economy. He said on July 19: "It is like a nuclear deterrent, I certainly don't want to use it. And nor do I think we will be in that position again." Instead, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said ministers are "trying" to aim only for local restrictions. He pointed to parts of Greater Manchester, Lancashire, West Yorkshire, Leicester and Luton which already have criss-crossing restrictions in place. Mr Jenrick said: "We don’t want to do anything that’s a blanket approach across the country. "Our strategy is to manage this in a localised way with targeted action as we’ve done in Leicester, as we’re doing now in the North West." Video Loading Video Unavailable Click to play Tap to play The video will start in8Cancel Play now ... But he can't rule out the 'nuclear' option The fact is, just like the nuclear deterrent, a full national lockdown has to remain in the PM's arsenal. And for the same reason he can't totally rule out shutting pubs or restaurants to keep schools open nationwide. Robert Jenrick said: "If we need to go further we'll have to", adding: "If the rate of infection rises then obviously we'll have to take further action as well." Drastic proposals include telling millions of over-50s to stay at home If there do have to be national restrictions, the Sunday Telegraph gives a drastic peek at what they could look like.
. The most eye-popping would involve telling millions of people over 50 to effectively "shield" in their homes - joining 2.2million other people for whom shielding ended on August 1. The previous shielding list, now "paused" in all but a few areas, chose people by medical condition not age. According to the Sunday Times, those aged between 50 and 70 could be given "personalised risk ratings", and be asked to add to the ranks of those staying at home.
Owner of Sunderland pub which closed after a customer tested positive for Covid slams government
Robert Jenrick insisted the idea was not being "actively considered" and said it was "speculation". No10 sources also called the reports "speculative". But Mr Jenrick also refused to rule it out in future, saying: "You would expect the Government to be considering all of the range of options that might be available to us." And it was always the case that the 2.2million original shielders are only "paused" - not released forever. Some or all of them could be asked to shield again. The second idea is said to be giving vulnerable people certain times of the week to go out shopping, so they don't come into contact with as many others. Non-essential travel in and out of London could be halted The third idea featured in the Sunday Telegraph is said to be imposing a citywide lockdown on London. In Leicester, the Government advised against non-essential travel in and out of the city to contain a local spike. So far London's nine million residents have been spared a second major outbreak, but if it does happen it could be disastrous. The idea is said to be stopping travel to and fro across the M25. Again, No10 sources described this as "speculation" and Mr Jenrick said: "There’s no plan, as far as I’m aware, to do anything broader in London."
A man wearing a face mask while travelling on a bus in Newcastle city centre
(Image: Craig Connor)
There could be harder local lockdowns The fourth and final idea trailed in the Sunday Telegraph looks most in line with ministers' current thinking. There could be harder local restrictions to curb the spread of the virus - something we've seen already. Restrictions are already in place in parts of Greater Manchester, Lancashire, West Yorkshire, Leicester and Luton. And a string of other areas are now on Public Health England's "watchlist" of rising infection rates, suggesting they'll be next if things get worse. The areas of "concern" are Eden (Cumbria), Sandwell, Northampton (Northamptonshire), Peterborough, Rotherham and Wakefield. Meanwhile, a regional ban on two households meeting indoors could be extended Separately to the four options (dismissed by Downing Street as "speculation") are reports that contact between households could be limited further. Current guidance for most of England says up to two households, of an unlimited number of people, can meet indoors as long as there's social distancing. But in parts of Greater Manchester, Lancashire and West Yorkshire, people are now banned from meeting any other household indoors - or in private gardens. In the North West and West Yorkshire, the ban on indoor meetings will be law with £100 fines for breaking it. But it doesn't exist in the rest of the country. And in the rest of England, the only actual law is against gatherings of more than 30 people. Multiple reports suggest the "indoor meetings" ban could be extended nationwide. The Government has not commented on the claims. But crucially, none of this is decided yet The Government is at pains to stress that none of these measures have been decided. They are all plans being looked at - they are certainly not things that are definitely going to happen.
Government drawing up drastic plans to avoid second national lockdown
The Government faces an impossible choice - and we don't yet know what it will choose What we do know is something has to happen. In the words of the Chief Medical Officer, we are now "probably" near or at the limit of how far we can ease lockdown. And England cannot risk seeing coronavirus rates rise to a second peak. That means more "unlocking" that has already happened may need to be reversed - especially when schools open. The Prime Minister admitted on Friday there could be "trade-offs". There's a good reason he hasn't said what they'll be. Coronavirus support to the economy has already cost £190b, borrowing has topped an entire year's GDP, and any new shutdown - local or national - will hit hard. It's only a day since shielding ended, people were told to go back to work and the furlough scheme began winding down. Any new shutdown will mean a stark choice between rescuing the economy and saving people's health. So far, the virus hasn't resurged drastically enough to force that choice in its purest form. But it might. And when it does, history will judge which way the PM swings.
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