After new expert modelling showed a greater number of deaths and cases than the March lockdown, the Boris Johnson government was on Saturday considering another ‘fire-breaker’ lockdown for a month from next week, joining similar measures across Europe.
The second lockdown is being considered for England, the largest and most populated constituent of the United Kingdom, with local lockdown and tighter restrictions already in place in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Johnson has so far resisted the lockdown option, implementing a three-level alert level with varying degrees of restrictions regionally in areas with spike in new cases to ensure some areas of the economy continue to function. However, experts and the opposition Labour insist the regional approach has not been effective.
As experts said the virus was now “running riot” across all age groups, official figures show that as of Friday evening, there were 24,405 new cases and 274 new deaths across the UK. The UK’s cumulative death figure of 46,229 is the highest in Europe.
Latest modelling of deaths by experts at five centres, including at Imperial College London, University of Warwick and the University of Cambridge shows at least over 2,000 deaths per day – more than twice the peak earlier this year – by December, if lockdown is not imposed. One of the models envisages 4,000 deaths per day.
Johnson is expected to announce the new lockdown, with exemptions for schools and universities, on Monday, if not earlier, reports said, adding that the cabinet is likely to meet over the weekend to consider various aspects, including its impact on an already battered economy.
Epidemiologist and government advisor John Edmunds told BBC that the only way to have a “relatively safe” Christmas is to take “stringent” action now, while another advisor, Calum Semple, added that another month-long lockdown would bring new cases down dramatically.
Semple said: “Unlike the first wave, where we had a national lockdown which protected huge swathes of society, this outbreak is now running riot across all age groups.”
France, Belgium and Germany have already imposed tighter restrictions as the second wave of Covid-19 sweeps across Europe.