Some parts of the UK could undergo strict lockdown measures once more if there are coronavirus outbreaks in the area, the Health Secretary has said.
Speaking during today’s daily press conference, Matt Hancock said that taking ‘local action’ in response to a flare-up of the virus is an ‘incredibly important’ part of the government’s strategy for keeping the pandemic at bay. He went on to describe what forms this could take, giving the example of an A&E hospital being closed to new admissions if they suffered an outbreak.
He noted that the local director of Public Health would work alongside the regional PHE and NHS teams to ensure the response is ‘right’. Advice would also be given by the Joint Biosecurity Centre.
Hancock then passed over to Professor John Newton, who is the leader of the government’s coronavirus testing programme. Professor Newton said outbreak control in different areas of the country ‘is likely to be used’.
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He continued: ‘This is what we see in other countries as well, that coronavirus flares up in certain areas so, as the Secretary of State has described, there’s a range of public health measures.
‘It’s really a whole system response so each area has, as well as the the director of public health working for the local authority, a local resilience for where all the other public services, fire service, police and so on also contribute and look at measures that might be taken.
‘It’s likely that the outbreaks will occur in certain areas and therefore one of the things required is what we call mutual aid, where an area has to close a certain unit, maybe an element of healthcare or social care, other elements can come into help them.’
Professor Newton added that the strategy was really ‘an extension of normal processes’ but with a ‘very different flavour’ because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Already across the UK, lockdown restrictions have been divided according to country, with England relaxing some measures ahead of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. England has so-far been the only nation to officially reopen schools for some children.
Potential plans for the UK to lockdown some parts of the country would not be dissimilar to Spain, where each region must meet specific epidemiological criteria before it can return to life as normal.
The areas must also maintain sufficient intensive care capacity and be able to test and isolate any suspected cases accordingly. The central Health Ministry in Madrid has the final decision on when each of the regions and provinces can move to a new phase.
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