What coronavirus second wave rules might look like – from schools to pubs


From over-50s shielding to bans on indoor meetings, our Online Political Editor rounds up the options raised to stop a coronavirus second wave – and explains the government will have tough choices ahead

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Millions of over-50s shielding. Travel beyond the M25 curtailed. Bans on indoor meetings. And the threat of pubs closing once more.

A flurry of wild – unconfirmed – ideas to save people’s health have flown about in recent days after England recorded the first sustained rise in coronavirus cases since April.

Boris Johnson drastically brought a halt to further unlocking measures on August 1, and imposed new restrictions on millions of people in northern England.

But that might not be enough. The Chief Medical Officer has said we may now be at the limit of easing lockdown.

And with the risk of transmission greater in winter, and schools to reopen in a month, something’s got to give.

Yet the truth is, we don’t know what the new normal will look like. There are « tough choices » and « trade-offs » to be made; we just don’t know what they’ll be yet.

So what might the next few months look like? We summarise, as best we can, what’s rumoured and what the government is saying.

Ministers have insisted England’s schools will « definitely » reopen to all pupils in September, full-time – despite fears of a second wave of coronavirus.

Boris Johnson delayed plans to resume bowling alleys, casinos, skating rinks, wedding receptions and some beauty treatments from August 1 due to the spike.

That sudden wave of caution led teaching unions to question plans to get all kids back in the classroom.

Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT, called for greater clarity, as well as « sufficient time to review and, if necessary, adjust reopening plans. »

« We need to get all of our kids back to school, » he told Times Radio. « Getting our children back into the classroom with that direct, face-to-face contact with their teachers will be a priority for the government when we have to make those tough choices. »

Scientists have warned you can’t reopen everything in society and keep Covid-19 under control.

Opening schools, even with social distancing in place, will mean more contact between people – and more risk.

A paper produced by SAGE experts on May 4 warned of a « rapid exponential increase » in coronavirus in a scenario where all children return to school.

Yet even without schools open, cases already appear to have been rising since lockdown was eased on July 4.

That means the government may have to choose what new restrictions to put in place in exchange for opening the classroom.

England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty warned on Friday: « If we wish to do more things in the future, we may have to do less of some other things. »

Scientists have speculated pubs and restaurants could among venues to shut in order to keep schools open.

Instead, he said, the government will focus where it can on imposing local restrictions rather than national ones.

While Boris Johnson obviously doesn’t want to do it, Mr Jenrick refused to rule out the prospect of shutting pubs or restaurants nationally.

Boris Johnson is desperate to avoid a second full, national lockdown that would cripple the economy.

He said on July 19: « It is like a nuclear deterrent, I certainly don’t want to use it. And nor do I think we will be in that position again. »

He pointed to parts of Greater Manchester, Lancashire, West Yorkshire, Leicester and Luton which already have criss-crossing restrictions in place.

Mr Jenrick said: « We don’t want to do anything that’s a blanket approach across the country.

« Our strategy is to manage this in a localised way with targeted action as we’ve done in Leicester, as we’re doing now in the North West. »

The fact is, just like the nuclear deterrent, a full national lockdown has to remain in the PM’s arsenal.

And for the same reason he can’t totally rule out shutting pubs or restaurants to keep schools open nationwide.

Robert Jenrick today said « if we need to go further we’ll have to », adding: « If the rate of infection rises then obviously we’ll have to take further action as well. »

If there do have to be national restrictions, today’s Sunday Telegraph gives a drastic peek at what they could look like.

The newspaper reported four options which are reportedly under consideration, in order to avoid a full return to telling the nation to « stay at home ».

The most eye-popping would involve telling millions of people over 50 to effectively « shield » in their homes – joining 2.2million other people for whom shielding ended on August 1.

The previous shielding list, now « paused » in all but a few areas, chose people by medical condition not age.

According to the Sunday Times, those aged between 50 and 70 given « personalised risk ratings », and asked to add to the ranks of those staying at home.

Robert Jenrick insisted the idea was not being « actively considered » and said it was « speculation ». No10 sources also called the reports « speculative ».

But Mr Jenrick also refused to rule it out in future, saying: « You would expect the government to be considering all of the range of options that might be available to us. »

And it was always the case that the 2.2million original shielders are only « paused » – not released forever. Some or all of them could be asked to shield again.

The second idea is said to be giving vulnerable people certain times of the week to go out shopping, so they don’t come into contact with as many others.

The third idea featured in the Sunday Telegraph is said to be imposing a citywide lockdown on London.

In Leicester, the government advised against non-essential travel in and out of the city to contain a local spike.

So far London’s 9million residents have been spared a second major outbreak, but if it does happen it could be disastrous. The idea is said to be stopping travel to and fro across the M25.

Again, No10 sources described this as « speculation » and Mr Jenrick said: « There’s no plan, as far as I’m aware, to do anything broader in London. »

The fourth and final idea trailed in the Sunday Telegraph looks most in line with ministers’ current thinking.

There could be harder local restrictions to curb the spread of the virus – something we’ve seen already.

Restrictions are already in place in parts of Greater Manchester, Lancashire, West Yorkshire, Leicester and Luton.

And a string of other areas are now on Public Health England’s « watchlist » of rising infection rates, suggesting they’ll be next if things get worse.

Separately to the four options (dismissed by Downing Street as « speculation ») are reports that contact between households could be limited further.

Current guidance for most of England says up to two households, of an unlimited number of people, can meet indoors as long as there’s social distancing.

But in parts of Greater Manchester, Lancashire and West Yorkshire, people are now banned from meeting any other household indoors – or in private gardens.

In the North West and West Yorkshire, the ban on indoor meetings will be law with £100 fines for breaking it.

But it doesn’t exist in the rest of the country. And in the rest of England, the only actual law is against gatherings of more than 30 people.

Multiple reports today suggest the « indoor meetings » ban could be extended nationwide. The government has not commented on the claims.

They are all plans being looked at – they are certainly not things that are definitely going to happen.

In the words of the Chief Medical Officer, we are now « probably » near or at the limit of how far we can ease lockdown.

That means more « unlocking » that has already happened may need to be reversed – especially when schools open.

Coronavirus support to the economy has already cost £190bn, borrowing has topped an entire year’s GDP, and any new shutdown – local or national – will hit hard.

It’s only a day since shielding ended, people were told to go back to work and the furlough scheme began winding down.

Any new shutdown will mean a stark choice between rescuing the economy and saving people’s health.

So far, the virus hasn’t resurged drastically enough to force that choice in its purest form. But it might. And when it does, history will judge which way the PM swings.

Source: https://news.google.com/__i/rss/rd/articles/CBMiUmh0dHBzOi8vd3d3Lm1pcnJvci5jby51ay9uZXdzL3BvbGl0aWNzL3doYXQtY29yb25hdmlydXMtc2Vjb25kLXdhdmUtcnVsZXMtMjI0NTY5MDHSAVZodHRwczovL3d3dy5taXJyb3IuY28udWsvbmV3cy9wb2xpdGljcy93aGF0LWNvcm9uYXZpcnVzLXNlY29uZC13YXZlLXJ1bGVzLTIyNDU2OTAxLmFtcA?oc=5

World news – What coronavirus second wave rules might look like – from schools to pubs

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