Labour leader Keir Starmer has called on the government to introduce a two to three week national lockdown to try and take control of the coronavirus.
The proposal for a so-called "circuit-breaker" is backed by the SAGE group of scientists, who made the recommendation in their meeting on 21 September, according to minutes published this week.
Starmer said the move would amount to “a temporary set of clear and effective restrictions designed to get the R rate down and reverse the trend of infections and hospital admissions”.
This could be timed with school half term to minimise disruption, but he aknolwedged that “a circuit break would require significant sacrifices across the country”.
He suggested that it would mean only essential work and travel, non-essential offices should be closed, household mixing should be restricted to one household except for those who’ve formed support ‘bubbles’.
Such a move would be provide an opportunity to “rectify some of the mistakes the government has made”, according to Starmer. “In particular to get a grip on testing and hand over track and trace to local authorities."
The move comes as a number of local authorities in tier two of the new restrictions asked the Treasury for millions of pounds to help their businesses cope with the fallout from tighter coronavirus restrictions and run local contact tracing.
The West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Sheffield City Region, which the government is due to place into the high risk category from today, have asked for a financial package for businesses and more money to help them run a local track and trace system, according to CSW’s sister title PoliticsHome.
Mayor of the West Midlands, Conservative politician Andy Street, is also set to ask for more cash from central government this week to help the region's hospitality sector.
Seven local authorities in the North East and the North of Tyne mayor are also asking for more help for local businesses while they are in Tier 2.
The new tiers are:
- Tier 1 “Medium”, which will cover much of the UK, and will see existing policies such as the "rule of six" and the 10pm hospitality curfew remain in place.
- Tier 2 The “high” level, for areas already under stricter rules, rules out household mixing indoors. Support bubbles will still be permitted, and the rule of six will cover socialising outdoors in parks and gardens.
- Tier 3: The “very high” third tier goes further, and will close pubs and bars unless they can operate as a restaurant, and people will be advised against travel in and out of the areas. Other venues such as gyms or casinos could be closed, but the decision will be up to local leaders, and a four-week sunset clause will apply to the restrictions.
Kate Proctor is the political editor of CSW's sister titke PoliticsHome, where a version of this story was first published.