Housing secretary hints at localised lockdowns in Covid-19 hotspots
Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick has said that local lockdowns could be applied to areas of England which see where Covid-19 “flare-ups” become obvious in future.
Jenrick said that the potential for more localised measures will be part of the government’s testing and contact tracing strategy, with restrictions possibly introduced at “micro level” to curb the spread of the virus in specific areas.
He added that any hotspots of Covid-19 would be identified and isolated to specific places, including certain town districts, schools, hospitals and work premises.
It follows prime minister Boris Johnson’s pledge last week that England will have a "world-beating" test, track and trace system in place by the beginning of June, with 25,000 contact tracers at its disposal and the capacity to track 10,000 new cases every day.
Health secretary Matt Hancock had hinted at the possibility of “local lockdowns” during Tuesday’s daily coronavirus briefing from Downing Street.
Elaborating on the plan for local lockdowns, Jenrick said: “[It] enables us then to take action in that place which will be restrictive on the individuals who live and work there... but as a result of that we'll be able to provide greater freedom to millions of other people across the country, enabling us to continue to ease the lockdown, ease the return to school, to work and to the daily activities that we all want to get back to.”
As part of the government’s exit strategy from the lockdown, the Joint Biosecurity Centre will be tasked with identifying any changes in the rate of infection, through widespread testing and environmental and workplace data. This will then be used to advise chief medical officers.
Although lockdown measures in different regions may differ in future, meaning that schools and workplaces in certain areas possibly have to close again, Jenrick stressed that it was preferred to have the whole country lifting restrictions as one.
Jenrick added that any local interventions will be “quite different from making major changes to lockdown measures in one part of the country versus another”.
As of Tuesday’s briefing, the number of deaths linked to Covid-19 in the UK reached 37,048, but the number of patients hospitalised with the virus has been falling.
However, the numbers have been in decline at different rates in different regions across the UK.