An emergency plan to introduce a total social lockdown across large parts of the north of England and London could be put into place at any time, according to The Times.
The outlet reports that this was one of the options put forward at the strategy meetings which took place in Downing Street prior to the announcement of last week’s new restrictions, but a handful of senior figures including the Prime Minister rejected them at the time.
What would the total social lockdown involve?
The plan would involve an instant shut down of the hospitality sector, with all pubs, restaurants and bars required to close for at least two weeks, though potentially longer. Schools, factories and shops would stay open, as would workplaces employing people who can’t carry out their duties from home.
It is reported that the plan would also include an indefinite ban on meeting up with members of other households anywhere indoors, though there are many areas in the north of England where this rule is already in effect due to local restrictions.
Speaking to The Times, a senior government source said the public “wasn’t ready” for the further restrictions last week, partly because “nobody has seen pictures of body bags in Spain or France on the TV yet.”
“The nation and the party wasn’t ready for us to go any further last week. There wasn’t a wide enough understanding of how substantial the second wave could be,” the source is quoted as saying.
Will this definitely come into effect?
Though the plans haven’t been formalised yet, Health Minister Helen Whately did not rule out the introduction of a total social lockdown. While speaking to BBC Breakfast earlier today (28 September), she said, “This is the moment in time we have an opportunity, we have a choice as a country to get this back down under control.
“We have to break these chains of transmission. That’s the way we get the rates back down again. We have seen them going up again in the last two weeks.”
It's not clear how these measures would be taken by Conservative backbench MPs, many of whom are already thought to be preparing to vote against the government in favour of an amendment which would give MPs more opportunity to scrutinise coronavirus legislation.