The UK government has considered reintroducing a short-term nationwide lockdown to slow the spread of COVID-19 cases, which have been steadily increasing over the past weeks.
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This latest announcement follows the introduction of new restrictions in parts of North-East England, which have affected almost 2 million people. The proposed nationwide lockdown could see hospitality businesses being shuttered for some weeks, while schools and workplaces would remain open during this time.
The government has been worried for some time that people are not abiding by current social distancing regulations. Earlier this week, leading public health advisers cautioned if no measures are taken immediately, the number of deaths by the end of October will increase significantly.
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said there had been an alarming increase in the number of people admitted to hospital with the COVID-19, alongside cases doubling almost every week. He also added people needed to follow local health guidelines to prevent further infection among UK citizens, especially with the upcoming flu season likely to see a vast number of people infected.
The impending lockdown has been dubbed a “circuit break," since it will only ask pub and restaurant owners to limit their business hours or remain temporarily closed to slow the number of infections. The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson is hesitant about imposing another nationwide lockdown, given its potentially disastrous impact on the UK economy.
The Health Secretary echoed these sentiments, stressing that a national lockdown would be the “last line of defence” considered by the government. "The strategy is to keep the virus down as much as is possible whilst protecting education and the economy," Mr Hancock said. "And throw everything at the science which eventually is the way we're going to spring out of this."
One of the ideas under consideration, suggested by the government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) is that some parts of the hospitality sector could be asked to close. Another idea being explored by the government is enforcing limited business hours upon certain establishments. The impact of the most recently introduced law, which limits social gatherings of more than six people, is yet to be observed in the latest case figures.
However, with more than 3,300 new cases being reported since Thursday, the government is getting increasingly worried about the infection getting to a point where it is out of control. Also problematic is the daily number of deaths within four weeks of a positive COVID-19 test which has risen above 20 for the past three days, after being in single figures over the past six weeks.
While no clear decision has been announced as yet, specific measures are likely to be introduced shortly to curb the number of infections.