BORIS Johnson has privately vowed to avoid another full lockdown this winter amid fears a new Covid surge will pile pressure on the NHS.
But the PM is set to extend Coronavirus legal powers for another six months allowing him to reimpose restrictions if necessary.
Boris Johnson wants to avoid any new Covid restrictions this winterCredit: Reuters
No 10 insists curbs on daily life would only ever be reintroduced as a “last resort” to stop the health service becoming overwhelmed.
Boris Johnson will next week unveil a “toolbox” of contingency measures he hopes will keep Britain open throughout the winter.
No 10 will give the go-ahead to vaccine passports, booster shots, and the biggest flu jab rollout in history to ease pressure on the NHS.
Allies of the PM say the successful jabs rollout means this winter will be “different” to last year.
But Boris is still pressing ahead with plans to extend the Coronavirus Act, setting up a showdown with angry Tory backbenchers.
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No 10 guidance says the Government “may need to take measures to help manage the virus during periods of higher risk, such as winter”.
But it adds ministers “will as far as possible seek to avoid imposing restrictions that have significant economic, social and health costs”.
The dossier says they will favour mass testing, outbreak management, and deployment of booster shots over another full shutdown.
Here are three key contingency measures Boris Johnson could take to tackle a Covid surge this winter.
Masks and social distancing
One of the more likely but controversial actions the PM could take would be to reintroduce the requirement to wear masks in public places.
Some scientists opposed No 10’s move to ditch all rules on face coverings after Freedom Day and may urge him to bring them back.
Such a move would see the legal obligation to cover up reactivated on public transport and in pubs, restaurants, and shops.
Similarly, if necessary Boris could bring back familiar rules from previous lockdowns on social distancing.
While it is thought new stay at home orders are incredibly unlikely there could be limits on how many people can mix.
It is most likely that such caps would cover mass events, although they could also be reintroduced for pubs and restaurants.
Under previous restrictions there was also the Rule of Six which governed how many people could meet up in each other’s homes.
No 10 has already announced plans for mandatory vaccine passports at nightclubs and mass events such as football games.
But if the number of cases starts to rise it could choose to extend them to other settings like pubs and restaurants.
Culture secretary Oliver Dowden said the PM wants “as few restrictions” as possible but insisted he will prioritise “protecting public health”.
He said: “If there’s a need to further extend that certification according to the public health need we’ll look at doing so.
“But we’re always reluctant to impose further burdens on businesses unless we absolutely have to.”
That would mirror the approach already taken in some other countries including France and Italy.
As well as curbing cases ministers hope it would have the added effect of encouraging the young to come forward for jabs.
‘Fire break’ lockdown
A senior Sage scientist has claimed the Government is already preparing for a so-called “fire break” lockdown in October to keep the virus under control.
The move would be a rehash of last year’s plan for a circuit breaker in the Autumn, which was eventually scrapped in favour of a full lockdown.
It would be a two-week period during which schools would be closed and restrictions like masks and social distancing reintroduced.
That could include everything from limits on large gatherings to caps on the number of people who can meet up indoors again.
A fire break would likely be introduced in mid-October when kids are on half-term, so they only miss one week of classroom learning.
Ministers have previously mulled the idea of also adding an extra week to the festive break to cut transmission chains amongst kids.
If the NHS continued to face pressure the most severe option for the PM would be to reimpose full lockdown on a regional or even national level.