UK coronavirus LIVE: 'Circuit-breaker' lockdown pressure mounts on Boris Johnson as new Covid Tier restrictions begin

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  • October 14, 2020
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Boris Johnson is facing mounting pressure to impose a half-term “circuit-breaker”, with scientific advisers stressing that a two-week lockdown could save thousands of lives by the end of the year.

Sage members have reportedly calculated that more than 7,000 lives could be be saved if schools are closed and people are ordered to stay at home for a fortnight from October 24.

Their conclusions are to be published in a paper today, after Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called for a short and sudden lockdown, warning that drastic short-term measures were needed to prevent a “sleepwalk into a long and bleak winter”.

It comes as the Government’s new three-tier coronavirus system comes into force in England, with London and other areas set to move into higher risk categories “within days” as Covid-19 cases continue to surge across the country.

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Culture Secretary brands sports measures ‘positively hateful’

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden accepts his Government is having to “do things that are positively hateful” such as keeping spectators away from sports venues, but insists such measures are necessary.

The Government pressed pause on the return of fans to grounds from October 1 because of a rise in coronavirus infections, creating further financial problems for sports clubs and governing bodies.

Mr Dowden set out the work the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) had done to assist the sector through the pandemic, and said: “We are doing things that are positively hateful, but the reason we are doing it is to secure public safety.”


The map shows the weekly rate of infection across the Liverpool City Region: 


Scenes from last night ahead of new top tier restrictions:


Doctors have slammed the “disgusting” late night scenes in Liverpool last night as revellers filled the streets ahead of the new coronavirus restrictions.

The city is the only area in the UK to be put on tier three – the highest level in the Government’s new three-tier lockdown system labelled as “very high” risk.

The tough new local measures including bans on households mixing, the closure of pubs and bars and avoiding all non-essential travel.

Read more…


Here are the latest infection rates for London, as the capital braces for tough new restrictions:

Covid-19 cases confirmed for London have risen above 8,000 in a week, leaving the capital facing tougher restrictions being announced within days.

Eight boroughs have now gone above the key threshold of 100 new cases a week per 100,000 population.

Four more are just below this level which is seen as one of a series of potential trigger points for stricter measures.

Any new restrictions are likely to be city-wide and the infection rate for the capital as a whole has risen to close to 90 cases per 100,000 people.

Read more…


It’s going to be a long few months…

Face masks and social distancing measures could be in place until next summer, the head of Oxford’s coronavirus vaccine trial has said.

Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said the vaccine would likely not be available until next year and that key groups, such as frontline health workers, would be at the front of the queue for jabs.

“Life won’t be back to normal until summer at the earliest. We may need masks until July,” the Daily Mail reported him as saying during an online seminar.

Read more…


Circuit-breaker should be ‘selective’, not national – senior Tory

Sir Bernard Jenkin, a senior Tory MP and chairman of the Liaison Committee, said he supported the circuit-breaker concept but not on a national level.

Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme whether he supported a short lockdown, he said: “Yes, in the areas where you have sharply rising cases.

“In the areas where there are very sharply rising cases there is a strong case for going straight to Tier 3 measures, but these should be selective, they should not be national.

“Whereas Essex has got an 82 per cent increase over the last seven days, Cornwall has only got 16.2 per cent, Somerset has only got 39 per cent.”

Sir Bernard said he had called on ministers to set-up a “high-level strategy group” to look at how it handles the coronavirus pandemic in the longer term.

He said it should “think about how we are going to live with the virus in the weeks and months ahead, because it is unlikely a vaccine is going to provide a single knockout blow to the whole thing”.


Hospital admissions could soon double those seen during Spring peak – local leader

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Lancashire council leader Geoff Driver said: “If we don’t take proper measures now, within three weeks the hospitals in Lancashire will be having the same admissions for Covid as they did at the height of the first wave.

“If we don’t take those measures now, in another couple of weeks after that we could be double the admissions that were occurring at the height of the peak in March and April, so we really do have to take measures.

“Just closing the pubs and bars will not in itself bring the virus infection rate down.”


‘Inevitable’ Lancashire will enter top tier

Lancashire County Council leader Geoff Driver told BBC Breakfast: “With the high rates of infection in most parts of the county area it’s inevitable we’re going to move into Tier 3.

“It’s really a question of when and how, and we’re working with Government trying to put together a package of measures that will mitigate the inevitable impact on that particular sector of the economy.”

The Conservative councillor said he did not feel the county was being “railroaded” into the measures.

He added: “It’s an inescapable fact and the very, very firm advice that we’re getting from our directors of public health is that closing the pubs and bars will not, in itself, get on top of the virus, so we will need to take other measures in addition to that and in order to do that effectively we need more resources.

“That’s the push that we’re making with Government at the moment.”


Meanwhile, football fans are sharing their own frustrations:

Frustrated football fans have raised questions over the decision to keep stadiums closed after pictures of a “packed” London Palladium surfaced this week.

Premier League and Football League matches could be played behind closed doors until as late as April next year after Boris Johnson put the brakes on a phased reintroduction of crowds from October 1.

The Evening Standard last week launched a campaign – Bring Back the Fans – to urge the Government to rethink their stance, while a petition to allow limited crowds to return is nearing 200,000 signatures.

Read more…


Welsh leader ‘baffled’ at PM’s resistance to travel restrictions

First Minister Mark Drakeford stressed that his request for the UK Government to restrict people from areas with high levels of coronavirus from travelling into places with lower levels is “not a border issue”.

People in areas of Wales under local lockdown restrictions are not able to travel to other parts of the country without a reasonable excuse, which does not include a holiday.

“It is a simple, straightforward, practical action that prevents the flow of the virus out of areas where there is a great deal of it into areas where there is very little of it, and I’m baffled why the Prime Minister continues to resist this idea,” Mr Drakeford told Sky News.

“All we’re asking is for fair play, for people in high volume areas outside Wales not being able to do things that people in Wales who live in high coronavirus areas are already prevented from doing.”


Circuit-breaker would ‘buy us more time’

Professor Matt Keeling said a circuit-breaker would “buy us more time” in the struggle to reduce the rising number of infections.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “What we’ve got at the moment is a situation where most areas of the country are facing an exponential rise in cases, and what a circuit-breaker or precautionary break would do is drive down R for that short two-week period.

“It would effectively bide us more time to put other controls in place.

“One of the ways of thinking about this is it kind of takes us back in time to when cases where lower, and therefore gives us opportunities to do other things, it reduces the number of cases as well as leading to a similar decline in hospitalisations and also deaths over a short period.”

Asked about the numbers of lives that could be saved as a result of a circuit-breaker, he said: “We looked at a range of different scenarios, from a relatively low growth rate going forward where we might sort of reduce deaths by a third between now and new year, to some extreme scenarios, which I think are the ones that have been quoted in the papers, which really were if we don’t do anything between now and the new year.”

Put to him that a circuit-breaker “simply postpones” deaths, Prof Keeling said he “completely” agreed with that but added: “We stress that this is only a short-term measure – it buys us time to put other measures in pla


The stricter the rules, the greater the impact – Sage

Professor Matt Keeling, one of the scientists behind a non-peer-reviewed paper claiming a circuit-breaker lockdown could save lives, said the “stricter the restrictions, the greater the impact”.

The member of the Government’s Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M) told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “What we are talking about is a two-week period of intense control of some form.

“We looked at a range of things, basically from a lockdown that was seen in April-May through to the milder restrictions that were in place in June.

“The stricter the restrictions, the greater the impact.

“So we’re not advocating any one policy in this paper, we are just looking at a range of things.

“We were thinking to coincide with half-term to minimise any impact on education and then it is a political decision balancing economics against health.”


Wales to decide on further action later this week

The Welsh Government will look at the coronavirus figures in Wales during the rest of this week to decide whether a circuit-breaker lockdown is necessary, First Minister Mark Drakeford has said.

Mr Drakeford told Sky News: “We have other measures in place already, which may be helping us to begin to turn the tide.

“I want to see whether there is further evidence of that. If there’s not, if numbers continue to rise, then we will have to take further action.”

The First Minister said coronavirus had been more “effectively suppressed” in Wales than in some other parts of the UK.

“But we want to act now in order to prevent the worst from happening, to give us a better chance of getting through the rest of the autumn and the winter, and if a circuit-breaker is the right way to do it then that is what we will do,” he told Sky News.

“We’re very actively talking about and preparing for that should it be necessary.”

Mr Drakeford said “detailed work” was ongoing to allow Wales to take the same decision as Northern Ireland if figures continued to go “in the wrong direction” this week.

“I’m not announcing it today but I do want people to know we are planning very seriously, so if we do need to do it we’ll be in a position to do it and in a position to do it quickly,” he said.


Manchester ‘won’t accept’ Tier 3 restrictions – mayor

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said the Government “has not discussed” whether his area will be moved into Tier 3 status later today.

He tweeted: “Since one meeting on Friday, the Government has not discussed these matters with us.

“Instead, the pressure is being piled on via media briefings.

“Later today I will set out why the current Tier 3 proposal is fundamentally flawed and why we won’t accept it.”


Wales ‘actively preparing’ for circuit-breaker lockdown

The Welsh Government is “very actively talking about and preparing for” a circuit-breaker lockdown in Wales, First Minister Mark Drakeford has said.

Mr Drakeford told Sky News that “detailed planning” was under way to establish what measures would be put in place during a circuit-breaker, how long it would last for, how schools would be treated and how to come out of it.

He said comments by Therese Coffey about a circuit-breaker not being the right move “fly in the face of the advice of Sage”.

“I don’t think it is sensible for the UK Government to dismiss that idea, they ought to sit down with everybody, look at it seriously and then make a proper decision,” Mr Drakeford said.


Londoners, here’s a roundup of everything you need to know about the current restrictions, and how they might soon change…


It’s a shame the PM isn’t following Starmer’s lead – Labour

Rachel Reeves, addressing the criticism levelled at Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer by a Government source on Tuesday, that he was “playing games” with his support for a circuit-breaker, said: “Keir Starmer is showing real leadership and following the science.

“It is a shame the Government is not doing that.

“It is not too late for them to change course, it is not too late for them to do that.

“We urge them, plead with them, to do that because we need to get control of the virus, protect the NHS and get a grip of our failed Test and Trace system.”

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that financial support should be “put in place so businesses will not be ruined” during any circuit-break lockdown, which the shadow cabinet member argued could help get the R rate back below one.


Labour calls on Government to ‘follow the science’

Rachel Reeves, Labour’s shadow chancellor to the Duchy of Lancaster, said it was a “mistake” by the Government not to follow Sage’s recommendation last month for a short national lockdown.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, she said: “We’ve always tried… to be a constructive Opposition but we think the Government have got it wrong this time.

“The mantra used to be that they were following the science – that no longer seems to be the strategy of the Government and that is a mistake.

“We believe the Government should be following the recommendations of Sage and getting control of the virus and protecting the NHS and using a circuit-break to reset the failed outsourced model of Test and Trace, which just isn’t working, which is contributing to the problems we are in now.

“It is absolutely the case that there is no silver bullet in all of this, you need a whole range of measures.

“A circuit-break is one of the tools in the arsenal that can be used to get control of this virus.”


New restrictions have brought ‘profound changes’ to business landscape

Expressing a determination to work with central Government to protect people’s lives and livelihoods, mayor Andy Street called for four specific measures to assist the hospitality, live events and business tourism sectors.

Monday’s announcement of Tier 2 status for Birmingham, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall, and Wolverhampton had brought about “profound changes” to the business landscape, Mr Street said.

He told Mr Sunak: “I look forward to discussing with you the appropriate support needed in response.”


Tier 2 restrictions could spark ‘domino effect’ across local economies – mayor

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street warned that Tier 2 restrictions imposed on parts of the region’s hospitality sector could lead to “closure by default” for many businesses.

In a letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Mr Street said getting clarity and reassurance on what support his region would receive from the Government was “a matter of urgency.”

The Conservative mayor wrote: “The decision to place the West Midlands into the ‘high’ alert level will critically affect businesses in the hospitality sector.

“Households cannot now mix within these establishments. These firms may not be formally required to close their doors, but they will face significantly reduced patronage.

“Under these new restrictions, many businesses will struggle to cover costs and will have to resort to redundancies. This could amount to a closure by default, if not by law.

“This risks an avoidable domino effect across local economies.”