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Scientists have now warned that restrictions could stay in place until 2021 if the R rate does not decrease enough for it to be deemed safe. SAGE experts have released modelling and data which suggests restrictions will need to continue on the approach to Christmas.
England is currently in a near-full lockdown, with all non-essential stores and hospitality closed, but schools and nurseries remain open.
The current lockdown is due to end of December 2, although fears are growing that tight restrictions may still be needed in places following this date.
SAGE, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, has advised that the tier system, used prior to the national lockdown, will not be enough to bring infections down.
The report said: “If this is sustained until 2 December, the number of hospital admissions and deaths would be expected to fall until at least the second week of December.
“The longer-term outlook depends on both the nature of [restrictions] that are implemented in England after December 2 and policies over the festive period.”
It adds: “If England returns to the same application of the tiering system in place before November 5, then transmission will return to the same rate of increase as today.”
It now seems likely that four different options could be pursued to bring England as close to normality as possible in time Christmas, with several options being looked at.
Rule of Six lifted
A source told The Sun on Sunday that the rule of six could be lifted on Christmas Day to allow loved ones to spend time together.
The insider said: “The PM is anxious to avoid being portrayed as Scrooge.
“He’s fully aware that millions of people are making big sacrifices to defeat this virus and is considering ways to allow them to experience the joy of Christmas for at last part of the holiday season.”
“It is not yet clear if ministers will grant a temporary easing of restrictions over Christmas to allow families to be together.”
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The Prime Minister has insisted that the current lockdown will end as planned on December 2, and that the tier system used prior to November will come back into effect.
During a cabinet meeting, he said: “These measures – the crucial thing to understand is that they expire on December 2.
“They come to an end. And we therefore as a Government and indeed as a country have a deadline and a target to develop solutions which previously did not exist.”
If the Prime Minister makes another u-turn in light of a failure to bring the R rate down, the lockdown could be extended further into December.
MPs would need to vote on an extension to lockdown if the Prime Minister proposed it, which is likely to pass given both main parties have supported the move.
Another full lockdown is what the PM wants to avoid after months of saying England would not need to be put into a second lockdown, but as cases rise they may not come down in time for the December 2 release date.
A joint approach for Christmas
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are not currently following the same framework as England, as the devolved administrations have opted for differing approaches toward the second wave.
As many will be wanting to travel to see loved ones across the UK, ministers from the devolved nations met with the UK Government this week.
They apparently “agreed on the importance of coordinating public messaging, in particular on travel both within the UK and abroad”.
A Cabinet Office spokesman added: “Officials from across the UK Government, Scottish Government, Welsh Government and Northern Ireland Executive will work together on a joint approach to the Christmas period.”
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