Covid-19: Johnson ‘considers plan to seal off London’

British PM reportedly orders proposals for avoiding another national lockdown

Commuters wearing protective face masks in Manchester Piccadilly railway station. Photograph: Ian Hodgson/Bloomberg

Commuters wearing protective face masks in Manchester Piccadilly railway station. Photograph: Ian Hodgson/Bloomberg

 

British prime minister Boris Johnson has ordered officials to draw up a plan for avoiding a second national lockdown, according to reports.

The prime minister is considering asking the elderly to shield once again and is mulling lockdown-like conditions for London should there be a second wave of coronavirus infections, the Sunday Telegraph and Sunday Times said.

The claims come after Mr Johnson was forced to announce a slowdown of the lockdown easing on Friday, with planned relaxations for the leisure and beauty sectors delayed after a rise in Covid-19 cases was recorded. Prevalence in the community is thought to be rising for the first time since May.

The Times reported the Conservative Party leader held a “war game” session with Chancellor Rishi Sunak on Wednesday to run through possible options for averting another nationwide lockdown that could stall any potential economic recovery.

Under the proposals, a greater number of people would be asked to take part in the shielding programme, based on their age or particular risk factors that have been identified since March, said the Telegraph.

It could even see those aged between 50 and 70 given “personalised risk ratings”, said the Times, in a move that would add to the 2.2 million who were deemed most vulnerable and asked to shield themselves from society during the spring peak.

The advice was only lifted on Saturday for those in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and it remains in place until August 16th for those shielding in Wales.

Other ideas mooted should the R-rate escalate in the capital include restricting travel beyond the M25 and putting a stop to staying at other people’s houses — similar to policies implemented in local lockdowns imposed in Leicester and parts of the northwest of England in recent days.

But Downing Street sources distanced themselves from the detail in the reports, calling them “speculative”.

Experts have speculated that ministers may have to order the closure of pubs, which were permitted to start serving again on July 4th, if schools are to reopen fully in September.

Prof Graham Medley, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, said earlier a “trade off” could be required if Mr Johnson’s pledge is to be met.

His comments followed chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty’s remarks that the country was “near the limit” for opening up society following the coronavirus lockdown.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) was forced to deny that it had abandoned its pledge to regularly test care home residents through the summer following a leaked memo from Prof Jane Cummings, the Government’s adult social care testing director.

The Tory administration has come in for criticism for failing to do more to prevent Covid-19 infections from reaching care homes, where some of the country’s most vulnerable population reside, during the initial spring peak.

According to the Times, Prof Cummings wrote to local authority leaders to inform them that “previously advised timelines for rolling out regular testing in care homes” were being altered because of “unexpected delays”.

Elsewhere, former Manchester United and England midfielder Paul Scholes has been accused of holding a party at his Oldham home to celebrate his son’s 21st on the same day lockdown measures were reimposed across parts of England’s northwest.

The Sun cited phone footage as showing revellers ignoring social distancing “as they drank and danced” at the seven-hour party, with the paper citing Tory MP Andrew Bridgen criticising Mr Scholes for “reckless behaviour”. - PA