According to the i newspaper,”firebreak” contingency plans are being drawn up if the NHS becomes overwhelmed later this year.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has reportedly authorised the plans.
The i also reports there are concerns about the number of NHS staff taking sick leave following the wearying pandemic.
A government source also warned against vaccine-resistant strains of COVID – as well as flu – that could stretch resources.
So will there be another lockdown in 2021?
A senior advisor said: “The government believes it has got to grips with the pandemic following the vaccine rollout.”
The insider said that “barring a new vaccine-beating strain”, fears over a rise in infections similar to that seen last autumn are outweighed by other issues.
These include an NHS staffing crisis and the likely resurgence in flu this coming winter.
“On top of COVID infections these factors could tip the NHS back to the brink and force more lockdowns,” they added.
So what is a ‘firebreak’ lockdown?
However, it seems the Prime Minister may have “shorter” lockdowns in mind going forward.
The plan is for them to be short, and preferably during the school holidays.
The unnamed insider continued: “Should more lockdowns be necessary, the plan is for them to be short, and preferably during the school holidays in late October and over Christmas. Firebreaks rather than lasting for months at a time.”
Government ‘confirms plans’
A spokesperson also confirmed that contingency plans feature in the government’s plans.
They said: “As a responsible government, we have to be prepared to respond to unexpected events as the country learns to live with COVID-19.
“As part of our strategy to manage the virus, it is both right and sensible that we maintain contingency plans for reimposing restrictions at a local, regional or national level if evidence suggests they are necessary.
“As set out in guidance, we will continue to monitor the data on a regular basis to ensure there is no danger of the NHS facing unsustainable pressure.”
However, some scientists believe the vaccine rollout may prevent the need for such intervention.
SAGE member Professor Neil Ferguson told The Times: “I think it’s unlikely we will need a new lockdown or even social distancing measures of the type we’ve had so far.”
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