There has been growing speculation this week that Britain is heading back towards a second lockdown. Today, it was reported the government is considering closing hospitality venues as part of a ‘circuit break’ to reduce the spread of the virus; local lockdowns now cover more than 10 million people nationwide; and ministers such as Matt Hancock have refused to rule out tightening restrictions as the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise.
This afternoon, Boris Johnson himself weighed in to suggest that the second coronavirus wave had begun in the UK and more restrictions may now follow. Speaking to broadcasters at a construction site of a vaccine manufacturing centre in Oxfordshire, the Prime Minister said that we ‘are now seeing a second wave coming in.’
It’s a stark admission from the Prime Minister, especially considering we are only in September. His comments follow the release of a coronavirus survey from the Office for National Statistics today, which suggests that around 60,000 people have the disease in England and that the number of infections are currently doubling about every ten days.
As Ross Clark points out on Coffee House, at the moment the rise in infections appears to mainly be among young people, who are least at risk from the disease. But the fear in government is that the virus will spiral out of control, as testing capacity is maxed out.
The question now, is how the government responds. In his interview this afternoon, the Prime Minister said that we may need to go further than the ‘rule of six’, which only came into force on Monday, and which made gatherings of seven or more illegal except under certain circumstances.
Instead, Number 10 will be looking to ‘intensity things’ when it comes to local lockdowns to bring down the rate of infections in key areas. And, while the prime minister said nobody wants a second lockdown, the government will be ‘looking at other measures as well.’
Only this week, Boris Johnson said that a second national lockdown would be an ‘economic disaster’ for the UK and that reimposing nationwide restrictions would be ‘completely wrong for this country’. If the second wave is now beginning in Britain, that commitment will certainly be put to the test.