Coronavirus: Schools and businesses could see ‘local lockdowns’

Taped off library books, St Margaret's C of E Primary School, Bury

Local lockdowns could see schools and businesses targeted in areas of England that have “flare-ups” of coronavirus, the communities secretary has said.

Robert Jenrick said restrictions could be introduced at “a micro level” to control the virus in particular communities.

The measures will be part of the test and trace system, to be introduced next week, he said.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock will give more details shortly, Mr Jenrick added.

Mr Hancock first mentioned the “local lockdowns” during Tuesday’s coronavirus briefing.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be questioned by senior MPs later amid continued calls for his top adviser to resign.

More than 35 Tory MPs have called for Dominic Cummings to stand down or be fired after details of his 260-mile journey to County Durham during lockdown came to light.

Mr Jenrick said the government’s test, track and trace system would have a “local element” and identify flare-ups in particular places, such as parts of towns, schools, hospitals and workplaces.

“That enables us then to take action in that place which will be restrictive on the individuals who live and work there… but as a result of that we’ll be able to provide greater freedom to millions of other people across the country, enabling us to continue to ease the lockdown, ease the return to school, to work and to the daily activities that we all want to get back to,” he told the BBC.

Under government plans to ease lockdown restrictions, the Joint Biosecurity Centre will identify changes in infection rates – using testing, environmental and workplace data – and advise chief medical officers.

As a result, schools, businesses or workplaces could be closed in areas that see spikes in infection rates, the government’s plan says.

 
 

Earlier this month Mr Jenrick said that it was the government’s “strong preference” for lockdown measures to be lifted uniformly, but some restrictions could be reintroduced locally if necessary.

But he said the local interventions that could soon be considered are “quite different from making major changes to lockdown measures in one part of the country versus another”.

 
 

Latest government figures show the number of people to die with coronavirus in the UK rose by 134 to 37,048 on Tuesday.

The number of people in hospital with Covid-19 has been gradually declining since the peak over Easter.

However, the picture is different across the UK’s nations and regions, with numbers falling faster in some areas than others.

Cases were originally concentrated in London, the Midlands and the North West of England. But South Wales and parts of the North West and North East also have a high proportions of cases.

 
 

Last week, Mr Johnson said England will have a “world-beating” test, track and trace system in place from June – with 25,000 contact tracers, able to track 10,000 new cases a day.

Contact tracing is a system used to slow the spread of infectious diseases by identifying people patients have been in contact with. One method involves tracking by phone or email, while another uses a location-tracking mobile app.

In other developments:

 
 

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