Date two-week post-Christmas circuit breaker Covid lockdown would begin as ‘timing crucial’


Sage experts have warned the government stricter restrictions are needed very soon in England in order to stop hospital admissions reaching 3,000 a day

London Bridge less busy than normal earlier this week
London Bridge less busy than normal earlier this week

A two week circuit breaker lockdown could come into effect before the end of the year, according to reports.

Sage experts have warned the government stricter restrictions are needed very soon in England in order to stop hospital admissions reaching 3,000 a day.

As such, plans are reportedly being drawn up which would see a return to restrictions which were in place earlier this year for a two-week “circuit breaker”.

It has now been reported that those measures are likely to start pre-New Year’s Day – meaning December 27 to 30 are likely candidates, reports BirminghamLive.

The BBC reports that leaked minutes of a meeting of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies held on Thursday say “the timing of such measures is crucial”.

Empty streets in Manchester earlier this week
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Image:

James Speakman/Mercury Pressa)

It adds: “Delaying until 2022 would greatly reduce the effectiveness of such interventions and make it less likely that these would prevent considerable pressure on health and care settings.”

The Welsh government has said it would close nightclubs from December 27 and impose a two-metre social distancing rule in offices – but it remains to be seen whether the circuit breaker begins the same day in England.

The plans reportedly being drawn up would see indoor meetings with people you don’t live once again being banned after Christmas in a desperate bid to slow Omicron.

Sources told The Times that ministers will be shown the plan “imminently” and the newspaper reports that under a new “Step 2” set of rules people would only be allowed to meet indoors for work purposes.

Meanwhile pubs and restaurants would once again have to serve customers outdoors.

The “rule of six” rule would be reintroduced for outdoor meetings, while shielding would return to protect the most vulnerable.

However schools and shops would not be shut under the plans, The Times reports.

Empty outdoor bar seating in the City in London on Thursday
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Bloomberg via Getty Images)

It comes as the UK recorded a record number of Covid cases for the third day in a row, with 93,045 confirmed infections in just 24 hours.

The total number of Omicron cases confirmed in the UK currently stands at 14,909, but experts believe up to 400,000 people could be catching it every day.

A government spokesperson said: “The Government will continue to look closely at all the emerging data and we’ll keep our measures under review as we learn more about this variant.”

Lord Victor Adebowale, chairman of the NHS Confederation, has described leaked modelling by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) as “very worrying”.

He said: “The fact of the matter is we should be taking the precautionary principle. We should be protecting our NHS and our public services. We have no economy without health. I actually have a great deal of faith in the British public. They have behaved impeccably, by and large.”

Modelling released by Imperial College London found no evidence of Omicron having lower severity than Delta, but data on hospital admission was very low at the time of the study.

A nearly empty London Bridge earlier this week
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Image:

Jeremy Selwyn/Evening Standard/eyevine)

According to the data, boosters are vital in controlling Omicron, but they may lose some effectiveness over time.

Researchers estimated the proportion of Omicron among all Covid cases between November 29 and December 11 was doubling every two days up to December 11.

Based on this they also estimate the reproduction number (R) of Omicron was above 3, over the period studied.

The UK’s eight worst Covid hotspots are now in London, where the variant has become the dominant strain, causing the overall cases to double in just a week.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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