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Cloudy with a chance of pain: how likely is another lockdown this winter?

By Sasha Braham

Three months on from ‘freedom day,’ which scrapped the majority of Covid-19 restrictions, the UK is facing the possibility of a winter lockdown. The question on people’s minds is why is this a possibility when 75% of UK adults have been double jabbed?

Here is the rundown of the current climate, why it is a possibility, and the Prime Minister’s three-part plan to avoid a lockdown: 

The situation right now:

  • There have been more than 86.7 million vaccinations across the UK, with first doses now offered to 12-15 year olds. This caused a significant drop in the number of cases, hospitalisations and deaths. However, recently with the onset of winter, Covid-19 numbers have been slowly and steadily rising on a national average. 
  • The government is continually promoting flu jabs, booster jabs and the Covid-19 vaccine. Professor Chris Witty, chief medical advisor, warns that ‘winter is coming’.
  • With the upcoming flu season, Boris Johnson is under continual pressure to introduce a plan for the winter. Although he wants to avoid detrimental economic and social restrictions, the potential struggle for the NHS means lockdown remains a threat.
  • Locally, Manchester City Council has published up to date information, highlighting that in the last 7 day period (Sept 25th-1st Oct) the number of positive PCR tests have risen from 5% to 5.2%. 

Based on these facts, the government has concluded that it is highly likely that seasonal flu cases will cause winter Covid-19 patients to suffer symptoms 50% worse than current cases. 

As a result, Boris has unveiled a three-part plan to limit Covid-19 cases and reduce the chance of a winter lockdown. 

Boris’s three-part ‘Winter Management Plan’: 

The initial plan includes booster vaccines to vulnerable people and over 50s, a larger vaccine rollout, and flu jab recommendations.

Plan A: No closing of public spaces or limit on people in specific areas. Face masks will not be mandatory however Sajid Javid has recommended ‘wearing a face mask in crowded and enclosed spaces’, and meeting outdoors to ‘steer the country through the autumn and winter.’

Plan B: The introduction of mandatory face masks in public indoor settings and the controversial introduction of vaccine passports – requiring vaccination proof or a negative test to enter certain areas.  This plan is in reserve due to backlash from the public and Conservative MPs. 

Plan C: Either a winter lockdown or an early contingency short lockdown with the intention to maintain hospitalisations at their current level. 

These steps would all need to be implemented before the process of another full-blown national lockdown. 

However, despite these announced steps, current speculation has threatened to derail Plan C and the possibility of a winter lockdown. The speculation has surrounded news that Boris Johnson may repeal parts of the 2020 Coronavirus Act, which granted the government the powers to handle Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the BBC, Boris is speculated to have discussed repealing: 

  • The power to close the economy.
  • The power to impose restrictions on gatherings.
  • Powers to restrict access to schools.
  • Powers to detain infectious people. 

If Boris repeals the Coronavirus Act, there is little possibility of a winter lockdown. However, the government would still possess the powers to impose regulations that ‘critically protect and serve the public,’ like providing emergency NHS resources. 

This speculation provides further indication that before a winter lockdown, the government will focus on vaccines as a first-line defense – supported by flu jabs and testing. Mandatory measures and restrictions remain a last resort.

What do UoM students make of this? 

First-year student Ella fears the impact of another lockdown on her mental health and social life. Particularly as lectures have only just become in person and clubs reopened, the threat of a winter lockdown would damage students’ remaining university experience. However, she also commented that despite this “I don’t mind having a lockdown to keep people safe, because that is the main priority.” Ella’s opinion sums up the view of many first and second-year students, who are currently receiving face-to-face teaching. 

Overall it is important to note that a lockdown is not ruled out, especially considering the constant government U-turns and the impending flu season. However, with double vaxxed numbers continually rising, the government’s winter management plan, and current manageable levels of hospitalisation, there are still many hurdles before a winter lockdown. In fact, if Boris’s Coronavirus Act repeal does go through, the process of a winter lockdown would be legally complicated. 

Until then, we remain in a state of limbo regarding the future. As students, we are left to contemplate what we would do if a winter lockdown becomes reality.

Tags: 2021, Boris Johnson, christmas lockdown, coronavirus, covid-19, lockdown, winter, winter managment plan

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