Circuit-breaker lockdown: What is it and what would it look like?

Liam James
·2-min read

As coronavirus cases continue to soar across the UK and warnings pile up over the impact of a second wave on the NHS, it is likely that the government will implement stricter regulations nationwide.

Professor Neil Ferguson, who helped shape the initial March lockdown, warned on Tuesday that further restrictions may be necessary to stem the spread as cases are likely doubling every fortnight and even as quickly as every seven days in some areas. In order to curb the spike, Downing Street is reportedly considering “circuit-breaker” measures.

Boris Johnson has been reluctant to implement a full-blown second lockdown due to fears of an economic “disaster”, it is more likely that Downing Street will implement shorter periods of tighter rules and restrictions sporadically and nationwide over the next six months in order to allow “breathing space.”

If implemented, a circuit breaker lockdown could last a fortnight and might see the closing or regulating of pubs, bars, restaurants and leisure facilities with socialising between households banned. It is thought that movements will be limited nationwide to all but essential travel.

Schools and all but essential workplaces could remain open – the PM has said it is a “national priority” to keep children in the classroom. It is thought that the circuit breaker could be timed for the half-term period at the end of October to avoid any further disruption to schools, a government source told the Financial Times.

Circuit breaker measures were first introduced by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in April to restrict movement in the country. The temporary measures saw schools and all but essential workplaces closed with restrictions on restaurants and household mingling.

The government was recently revealed to be planning a traffic light system of three alert levels that could be implemented at local or national level if cases are not brought under control.

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, told MPs on Monday the government will outline a “more simplified” and “consistent” approach to local measures.

The prime minister earlier said he wanted to keep local lockdowns as “simple as possible” though he did not confirm whether the three-tier system would be introduced.

The proposed approach of pre-packaged measures has been welcomed for being simpler, which Dr Nilu Ahmed, a behavioural psychologist at Bristol University, says will make compliance more likely.

Dr Ahmed said: "Clear guidance offers more than just rules to follow, it provides reassurance during stressful times.

"The more direct and simple rules are, the greater the likelihood of compliance as they are easier to remember."

Positive test results have risen sharply in recent days due in no small part to an error in recording data that delayed reporting of 15,841 cases between 24 September and 1 October.

A record 12,872 daily cases were reported on Sunday with cities such as Manchester and Liverpool seeing the highest leap in figures.

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