England could face “national action” and “very extensive local lockdowns” in the event of a winter coronavirus wave, the British government has said, with a “worst-case scenario” of 80,000 deaths.
“A second wave is clearly visible in other parts of the world,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the Times newspaper.
“Cases go up again, and we have to use very extensive local lockdowns or take further national action. We don’t rule that out but we don’t want to see it,” he said.
Britain has been one of the country’s hardest hit by the disease, with over 41,000 dead, but has eased lockdown restrictions recently as hospitalisations and deaths dropped.
But cases have ticked up in recent weeks and the UK government is worried about another wave of the virus arriving during flu season.
The mayor of Greater Manchester, which was affected by a local lockdown, has said decisions on easing or tightening local coronavirus lockdown restrictions should not be “imposed” by the government.
Andy Burnham called for more negotiation and agreement between Westminster and local authorities on such issues.
The Labour former cabinet minister told BBC Breakfast: “I think we will better negotiate what lies ahead of us in the autumn and winter if government listens to local leaders – they know their communities.
“It wasn’t just in Greater Manchester where they overruled us. In Bradford, basically communities were split there – some are still under restrictions, some not.
“You then have the situation where some people on one half of the street are under restrictions and others not.
“My main message to the government is you must not impose these things from London when you are going to affect communities in this way, it must be by negotiation and agreement.”
Although more restrictions could be re-introduced, schools would likely remain open, according to a report prepared for the government by the Sage scientific advisory group and aired on BBC’s Newsnight.
By November “policy measures would be put in place to reduce non-household contacts to half of their normal pre-March 2020 levels,” it said.
The report found 85,000 more people could die across Britain, with more than 80,000 in England alone, in a “reasonable worst-case scenario”, although stressed that this figure was not “a prediction” and the data are subject to “significant uncertainty”.
The estimate assumes that schools would remain open and that the British government’s tracing and quarantine measures will be around 40% effective.
Carl Heneghan, from Oxford University, told the BBC that the model was “implausible” and that it assumed that “we have learnt nothing from the first wave of this disease”.
The UK government told the broadcaster that its plans were under constant review, and were driven by the latest scientific advice.( RTE )
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