Pubs and restaurants could be shut again in autumn and family meetings could be banned in order to get children back into school as the coronavirus pandemic rumbles on.
Plans to reopen bowling alleys, casinos and skating rinks this weekend were shelved by the Government yesterday as the rate of infection is picking up. Meanwhile local lockdown measures banning indoor meetings between households have been imposed on many parts of the North West due to a surge of cases.
England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty said the country has ‘probably’ reached its limit of easing restrictions, and said relaxing the rules any further would ‘absolutely, inevitably’ lead to a resurgence of infections. After Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned of a second wave ‘rolling across Europe’ he said Downing Street would not hesitate to reintroduce lockdown rules if needed.
At a Downing Street press conference yesterday Boris Johnson was asked if there would be ‘trade-offs’ to achieve his goal of getting all schoolchildren in England back into classrooms on September 1. The Prime Minister said: ‘Your basic point is a very good one about the trade-offs that we’re looking at here. I do believe getting our children back to school on September 1… that should be a national priority.’
Professor Whitty added: ‘The idea that we can open up everything and keep the virus under control is clearly wrong. I think what we’re seeing from the data from ONS and other data is that we have probably reached near the limit or the limits of what we can do in terms of opening up society.
Visit our live blog for the latest updates: Coronavirus news live
‘So what that means potentially is that if we wish to do more things in the future, we may have to do less of some other things. And these will be difficult trade-offs, some of which will be decisions for government and some of which are for all of us as citizens to do.
‘But we have to be realistic about this. The idea that we can open up everything and keep the virus under control is clearly wrong. And what we’re seeing is that that we are at the outer edge of what we can do – and therefore, choices will need to be made.
‘People I think are very clear, for example, that schools are an absolute priority for the welfare of children.’
As well as separate households being banned from meeting up, Brits could once again be told not to use public transport if the national health crisis worsens.
The Government’s scientific advisory group for emergencies (SAGE) added: ‘It is important to ensure that there will be enough ‘room’ in terms of the epidemic to open schools in September… there is a strong case for prioritising opening schools over other establishments.’
Speaking to ministers, the advisory body said there was still a low risk of transmission in schools.
Yesterday the Prime Minister warned the contagion of coronavirus is on the rise, with one in 1,500 people having the virus compared to one in 1,800 on July 15 and one in 2,000 on July 2.
The Office for National Statistics estimate there are now 4,900 new infections every day up from around 3,000 a day on July 14 and 2,000 a day at the end of June.
Johnson added: ‘You’ll remember that at every point I have said our plan to reopen the society and economy is conditional, that it relies on continued progress against the virus, and we would not hesitate to put the brakes on if required.
‘With those numbers creeping up, our assessment is that we should squeeze that brake pedal… in order to keep the virus under control.
‘At this stage, we are not changing the rules on social contact nationally. I don’t want to tell people to spend less time with their friends. But unless people follow the rules and behave safely, we may need to go further.’
Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at email@example.com.
For more stories like this, check our news page.