Will there be another lockdown in 2021? ‘Firebreak’ October lockdown rumours explained - as Covid cases rise

The government has denied reports that there could be a ‘firebreak’ lockdown during the October half term

Covid cases are rising across part of the UK, with some areas seeing a surge in infections.

But could another lockdown be introduced to deal with the rise in Covid infections?

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Are Covid cases rising?

The UK reported 41,192 new Covid cases and 45 deaths on Monday (6 September), with cases since 30 August 12.2% higher than the previous seven days.

On the same day, the country passed the milestone of more than seven million confirmed cases of Covid recorded in the UK since the beginning of the pandemic, according to official figures.

The news came as vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi told MPs that a booster programme was “ready to go”. He said that booster jabs were “the most important piece of the jigsaw” to bring an end to the pandemic.

The government is awaiting scientific advice before signing off on the programme, but the NHS is reportedly primed to go ahead with the plan.

The news comes in the same week that pupils return to class in most schools in England and Wales.

Most Covid restrictions have now been lifted in schools, including isolation bubbles and the need to wear masks.

Schools in Scotland returned at the end of August.

What’s a ‘firebreak’ lockdown - and will there be one in October?

An exclusive report in the i newspaper on 7 September said that the government has drawn up plans for an October ‘firebreak’ Covid lockdown should hospitals be overwhelmed by rising Covid cases.

According to the i, a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) said the UK is about to enter “an extended peak” of infections and hospitalisations. This could push the NHS beyond breaking point and could force the government to reintroduce lockdown restrictions over the October half term.

A ‘firebreak’ lockdown is not the same as a full lockdown, and would involve reintroducing some measures for a short period of time.

According to the i report, this could mean an extension of the October half-term from one week for most schools, to two weeks from late October to early November.

However, the Department of Education denied the reports in a tweet, saying: “It is not true that the Government is planning a lockdown or firebreak around the October half term.”

Will there be another lockdown?

England

In England, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly said that the lifting of Covid restrictions will be “irreversible”, but at the beginning of July he did say that the Government would “retain contingency measures to help manage the virus during higher risk periods, such as the winter”.

He added: “But we will place an emphasis on strengthened guidance and do everything possible to avoid reimposing restrictions with all the costs that they bring.”

The government has denied rumours of a reported ‘firebreak’ lockdown in October.

Scotland

In an update on 24 August, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that she "cannot completely rule out" more lockdown restrictions if the current "sharp rise" in cases continues.

The First Minister said she “cannot completely rule out having to reimpose some restrictions” to regain control of the pandemic if the number of people being infected continues to rise.

She added: “Even with vaccination we can’t be totally relaxed about this surge in cases.”

“If the surge continues and if it accelerates and if we start to see evidence of a substantial increase in serious illness as a result, we cannot completely rule out having to reimpose some restrictions,” she added.

“Of course we hope not to have to do that, and if we did we would be as limited and proportionate as possible.”

However, at the end of August Ms Sturgeon said that the Scottish government is not currently considering a circuit breaker to deal with the sharp rise in Covid infections.

Wales

On 7 August, Wales moved the alert level zero, which meant a number of measures - including legal restrictions on the number of people who can meet indoors - were lifted.

However, face coverings remain a legal requirement indoors, with the exception of hospitality premises, and this will be kept under review.

The Welsh Government also warned that it would not hesitate to reintroduce restrictions should the Covid-19 situation deteriorate again.

Prior to lifting almost all remaining restrictions, First Minister Mark Drakeford said the public can have "some confidence" that we are now beyond the worst of the virus, but warned that the pandemic is "not all over".

Northern Ireland

Meanwhile in Northern Ireland, Stormont health minister Robin Swann appeared to rule out another lockdown being put into place just yet.

He previously told the BBC: “I don’t think we are at that point yet about putting more restrictions back in.”

“The Executive meets again in the first week in September in regards to what’s still in place and what we’ll look at in regards to the next steps, and that’s where that decision will be made,” added Mr Swann.