Mirror Online: LONDON, England – Boris Johnson could impose a sharp two-week lockdown within days to act as a “circuit breaker” against Covid-19. It comes after scientists warned the PM of hundreds of daily coronavirus deaths “within weeks” as cases surge.
Pubs and restaurants could be forced to shut shop within days after the Prime Minister was warned of “no alternative” to a second lockdown.
It comes as Mr Johnson warned the “rule of six” could be ditched and suggested the Government might “intensify” coronavirus restrictions as early as Tuesday.
To get through the winter, Brits could face six months of restrictions with “on-off” lockdown measures to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Yesterday the Prime Minister warned the country is just six weeks behind France and Spain – where the daily death toll rose to 239 this week, and admitted a second wave was “inevitable”.
The new approach could see periods of stricter measures including the closing of bars and restaurants and bans on all social contact between households with intervals of relaxation.
Professor Neil Ferguson, whose modelling led to the Government ordering the lockdown in March, has warned that new coronavirus restrictions will be needed “sooner rather than later” if the authorities are to prevent the disease surging again.
The epidemiologist said the country was facing a “perfect storm” following the easing of controls over the summer.
“Right now we are at about the levels of infection we were seeing in this country in late February,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
“If we leave it another two to four weeks we will be back at levels we were seeing more like mid-March. That’s clearly going to cause deaths because people will be hospitalised.
“I think some additional measures are likely to be needed sooner rather than later.”
He added: “We have in some sense a perfect storm right now of people, as they have been told to, getting back to normal – schools reopening, a surge in cases so therefore the testing system is under strain.
“So unfortunately we do have to roll the relaxation of measures back a little bit and get contacts down in the population.”
Ministers hope the new approach can avoid a full UK-wide lockdown like the one that was introduced on March 23.
It comes after new restrictions were this week put in place in the North East, Midlands and West Yorkshire.
Data released yesterday suggests that the UK’s R number is between 1.1 and 1.4 – meaning the number of new cases doubles every seven-to-eight days.
Prof Ferguson said his current view was that a temporary lockdown would be less restrictive than March.
But he said the Government does need to develop a set of “sustainable” coronavirus restrictions if it wants to avoid repeated lockdowns.
“You can lock down and then completely relax and then lock down again,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
“My own view is at the moment a temporary lockdown – it wouldn’t be like it was in March, it would be less restrictive than that – would pull down infection numbers to allow the testing system to cope a bit better.
“But I think actually what we want is to have a set of sustainable measures through until we have a vaccine, not go through this cycle again.”
On Monday the Government’s “Rule of Six” came into force, banning socialising in groups of more than six.
But Boris Johnson said he is weighing up whether to “go further.”
The PM admitted while a second national lockdown was “the last thing anybody wants,” measures must be kept under view.
He said: “We’re looking very carefully at the spread of the pandemic as it evolves over the last few days and there’s no question, as I’ve said for several weeks now, that we could expect (and) are now seeing a second wave coming in.
“We are seeing it in France, in Spain, across Europe – it has been absolutely, I’m afraid, inevitable we were going to see it in this country.”
The PM added: “On Monday, we brought in the measures that we did, the ‘Rule of Six’, to really try and restrict what people are doing and to bring in a new buffer.
“But the crucial thing is at the same time to observe the basic rules on social distancing – hands, face, space – that is what everybody has got to do if we want to continue to beat this thing.
“But as we look at this particular curve and what is happening now, clearly we are going to keep everything under review. I don’t want to get into a second national lockdown at all – it is the last thing anybody wants.