A five-step plan for imposing local lockdowns in the case of coronavirus spikes has been announced by the government – as the chief medical officer warned of a potential second wave.
Boris Johnson said the approach is now moving to a local focus rather than locking down the entire country.
Speaking at a Downing Street coronavirus briefing, the prime minister said the five-step plan will include: monitoring, engagement, testing, targeted restrictions, and “as a last resort”, local lockdowns.
And chief medical officer for England, Professor Chris Whitty, urged people to keep following social distancing rules as lockdown restrictions are further eased from Saturday, with pubs, restaurants and hairdressers allowed to reopen.
He said: “If individuals, families and firms do not take them seriously the possibility of a second wave goes up sharply.
“The virus is a long way from gone, it’s not going to be gone for a long time.
“Nobody watching this believes there are no risks in the next step.”
Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, also warned of the danger of “superspreading” of COVID-19 occurring in pubs.
The five steps for introducing a local lockdown:
Public Health England (PHE) will work with the joint biosecurity sector by looking at data on the spread of coronavirus and people’s behaviour across the country.
They will look for emerging trends, rising cases and other indicators, while taking into account local factors.
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If monitoring identifies local problems, NHS Test and Trace and PHE will work with the relevant local authority to develop a deeper understanding of the problem and identify solutions.
They will work with local agencies to keep the local community informed at every stage so they know what they need to do.
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Testing at a local level will then be scaled-up, combined with contract tracing through NHS Test and Trace to try to control the virus at that stage.
If the virus continues to spread, activities at particular locations will be restricted and individual premises will be closed.
Hotspots will have access restricted, with people who have spent time there tested and contact tracing carried out for anyone who tests positive.
If the previous measures do not stop the spread, local lockdowns will be extended across whole communities, with businesses and schools shut down as people are urged to stay at home.
Mr Johnson said the government is “continually exploring smarter means of containing the virus”.
The prime minister said they have successfully carried out a few local lockdowns so far.
He said an outbreak was identified in Weston-Super-Mare at a hospital which they closed to visitors and new admissions, all staff and patients were tested and the hospital was given a deep clean, containing the outbreak and allowing the hospital to reopen.
In Kirklees, West Yorkshire, an outbreak was identified at a meat packing plant, which the government shut and sent a mobile testing unit to test all employees and trace any contacts if they tested positive.
The outbreak was contained and the plant has reopened with additional safety measures.
The most well-known and widespread lockdown is in Leicester where mobile testing units have been deployed and the city placed back into a stricter lockdown for two weeks from last Monday.
Mr Johnson added: “In each of these cases, the problems identified were specific to Weston-Super-Mare, Kirklees and Leicester. So of course it made sense to take action locally, rather than re-impose restrictions on the whole country.
“And we are learning the whole time. With each local outbreak, we see what works well and what not so well, so that we do better next time.”