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A senior cabinet minister has said further lockdown measures would “set us back hugely” amid signs that additional coronavirus restrictions may be imminent for parts of north-west England.
Liz Truss, the international trade secretary, indicated that the government remained strongly opposed to measures such as closing pubs, bars and restaurants despite rising hospital admissions and a sharp increase in infections.
Truss said ministers were attempting to strike a “delicate balance” of protecting the economy while stopping the spread of the virus, telling Sky News: “If we end up locking down further or having a national lockdown, that would set us back hugely so we’re constantly balancing those two priorities.”
There is increasing concern among some of the government’s scientific advisers that tougher restrictions will be needed after coronavirus cases across the UK doubled in 11 days to 14,542 and deaths doubled to 76 in the same period.
Hospital admissions in England jumped by nearly a quarter, to 478, in one day. In the north-west, which is bearing the brunt of the second wave, daily hospital admissions rose by 63% in four days to 208 – nearly half of England’s total on 4 October.
Truss’s comments were in sharp contrast to Calum Semple, a member of the government’s scientific advisory group for emergencies (Sage) and professor of child health and outbreak medicine at the University of Liverpool, who said he believed a national “circuit breaker” lockdown should be considered at a national level.
Speaking in a personal capacity, Semple told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that “perhaps a circuit breaker a couple of weeks ago would have been really good idea”.
He added: “It’s always easier to reduce an outbreak at the earlier stage than to let it run and then try to reduce it at a later stage. So, yes, circuit breakers are certainly something we should be thinking about on a national basis.”
Ministers are considering introducing a three-tier lockdown system for England instead of the strict nationwide measures imposed during the first wave in spring. Under the new system, areas would be graded on a traffic light basis with red signalling the worst-hit parts of the country, where pubs, restaurants and bars would be ordered to close and all social contact outside households banned.
During a conference call with England’s regional mayors this week, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, is understood to have suggested that such a system would be introduced “sooner rather than later”.
Asked about concerns that the 10pm curfew and local restrictions were not working, Truss said the government was “not introducing measures that we don’t believe will work” and that “these measures have been introduced precisely because they have been advised by the chief medical officer [and] by the chief scientific officer”.
She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “What we don’t want to do is have to have a further national lockdown because it was a huge impact on the economy and it was very difficult. That’s why we have the local measures and local restrictions.
“Of course we need to keep them under review as we see what happens in each local area. Ministers keep them under review working with the chief medical officer and the chief scientific officer, making sure that we are keeping the balance right between protecting lives and protecting livelihoods.”
Source: The Guardian
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