Europe

Will there be another lockdown? Covid numbers creep up once more amid winter surge fears

Scotland: Nicola Sturgeon wants another lockdown says Leo Kearse

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Experts had expected cases to rise this summer as lockdown eased and people began socialising once more. But with the successful uptake of coronavirus vaccines keeping the worst illnesses at bay, many had hoped the long, cold months of lockdown were behind us in the UK.

So could we face another lockdown?

Cases, deaths and hospitalisations are all up, according to data published on September 3, leading to worries the NHS might not cope come winter.

Preparing for a possible winter surge, the Prime Minister will reportedly seek to extend emergency Covid laws to allow a possible snap lockdown over the winter months.

When MPS return from summer recess next week, they will be asked to vote on whether to extend the Coronavirus Act, first introduced 18 months ago.

The emergency legislation gives the Government, local authorities and police the power to temporarily close schools and businesses, as well as suspend public gatherings and events.

The law also allows for emergency pay for those affected by such a shutdown and protects people from eviction.

In a statement to the Financial Times, a government spokesperson said: “We will allow temporary powers in the Coronavirus Act to expire wherever possible, as we have at previous review points.

“However, it would be irresponsible to allow all temporary provisions to expire.

“Doing so would remove the government’s ability to protect renters from eviction, give sick pay to those self-isolating from day one, and direct schools to reopen where needed, for example.

“The British public would expect us to retain these powers in case they are needed through the winter.”

While it’s unclear whether MPs would support the move, there is growing concern about the NHS’s ability to handle a winter surge – and not just that of Covid.

A major delay in flu jab deliveries due to a shortage in HGV drivers is leading to concerns about a deadly wave of seasonal flu.

Dr Gary Howsam, vice chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: “With more than 36 million people eligible for the flu vaccine on the NHS this year, GPs need the supply chain to run like clockwork.

“GPs are already under enormous pressure and still waiting for details of how the Covid booster campaign will align with everything else they need to do this winter.

“A delay of even a couple of weeks is going to have a big impact on practices and their patients.”

Labour’s shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth said: “This has been a summer of crisis for the NHS with patients paying the price.

“With winter coming and flu resurgence a huge risk, ministers must urgently get a grip.”

But not all ministers are convinced an extension of lockdown powers is the way to tackle the issue.

David Davis, Tory MP for Haltemprice and Howden, argued that the Coronavirus Act contains “some of the most draconian powers” ever to be introduced in the UK.

He said: “Thankfully, the crisis point of the pandemic has passed.

“So it is now time to roll back the extensive powers unwisely handed over to the state.”

Advocacy group Liberty Human Rights also said it is “scandalous” that the legislation, which “threatens everyone’s rights and freedoms” is still on the books.

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