UK Gov't Minister Reveals Ways to Avoid 'Firebreak' COVID Lockdown
11:28 GMT 07.09.2021 (Updated: 11:46 GMT 07.09.2021)
Late last week, Nadhim Zahawi insisted that introducing COVID passports to be used during mass events and at nightclubs was the "best way" to avoid coronavirus restrictions in the UK over the next few months.
UK Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi has not confirmed or denied that "firebreak" coronavirus restrictions could be introduced in the country in October if COVID-19 hospitalisations
show no sign of abating.
He told Sky News on Monday that it all would depend on the implementation of the booster vaccine programme for the elderly and "the most vulnerable" to infections.
Zahawi described the booster programme as his "absolute priority", saying it will "absolutely help us to transition the virus from pandemic to endemic status".
But he warned that the "one-way road towards sustaining the opening of the economy" will only happen "if we do that well".
"The important thing is that we get that right, because I think if we do that well, we can continue on this sort of one-way road towards sustaining the opening of the economy […]", the minister said.
The remarks followed the UK newspaper i citing an unnamed senior government scientist as saying that Downing Street plans an October "firebreak" COVID lockdown if hospitalisations continue at their current level, which could overload the National Health Service (NHS).
The scientist, who is a member of the government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), told the newspaper that Britain may enter "an extended peak" of infections and hospitalisations, which could prod ministers to reintroduce COVID restrictions over the school half term period at the end of next month.
The SAGE member also said that even though a full-fledged lockdown is unlikely and would be a last resort, the government may impose are a range of measures to tackle a possible rise in infections.
"We are going to be at a peak, albeit an extended peak, quite soon, so it's not really the same situation as last year, when failure to reduce prevalence would have resulted in collapse of NHS and people dying in car parks. Hospitals might be overflowing before deaths reach the same level. Acting early will prevent this level", the scientist stressed.
Another unnamed government source was quoted by the newspaper i as saying COVID hospitalisations "are on a path to match the levels seen at the end of October last year" and that "it is the admissions that will push the NHS to the brink of collapse if they do not fall soon".
"On top of that we have an expected resurgence in hospitalisations for other respiratory illnesses like flu. If the current high levels of admissions for COVID continue the NHS will not be able to cope, so a firebreak lockdown is by no means out of the question", the insider warned.
The remarks come after the government's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation revealed in a report last month that more than 30 million of the most vulnerable people in the UK, including all over-50s, should receive a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the UK's second lockdown on 31 October 2020, when there were 16,479 coronavirus infections and 1,461 hospitalisations. As of 31 August 2021, the figure has almost doubled to 42,192, with 988 admissions, according to government estimates.