Half-term ‘could be increased to two weeks’ if Covid hospitalisations rise

The Government has reportedly drawn up plans for an October “firebreak” lockdown in the event that Covid hospitalisations continue at their current level (Photo: TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP via Getty Images)

The Government has reportedly drawn up plans for an October “firebreak” lockdown in the event that Covid hospitalisations continue at their current level.

This could potentially see the reintroduction of restrictions over the school half term period at the end of October.

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It is understood that the Government’s contingency plan for a “firebreak” lockdown could lead to an extension of the half-term, with schools taking a two week break instead of one.

A source for the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) told the i: “This is essentially the precautionary break that Sage suggested last year.

“It would be sensible to have contingency plans, and if a lockdown is required, to time it so that it has minimal economic and societal impact.”

The Government scientist added: “If it is a proper contingency plan, then you do need to plan for it. And to have some threshold or trigger for enacting or calling it off.”

Another Government source, who has advised on the Covid policy since the pandemic hit the UK in March 2020, also told the i they believe the Government will have to “seriously consider” another lockdown if the current trajectory hospital admissions for Covid continues throughout September.

The source said: “If you look at the current trends, hospitalisations are on a path to match the levels seen at the end of October last year.

“While deaths are high compared to last year and are unlikely to hit the levels as seen last autumn because the vaccines are doing their job, 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.”

When asked about the prospect of schools closing, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said: "We want to make sure they stay open and the way you do that is by protecting the most vulnerable."

Possible Covid contingency plans

The level of Covid hospitalisations have consistently been above 900 a day over the past two weeks.

It is reported that if this continues then Prime Minister Boris Johnson will consider whether or not a range of additional Covid restrictions are required, which could potentially include a return to a limit on gatherings in homes and indoor public spaces.

Mr Johnson is also believed to be prepared to reintroduce the wearing of masks and social distancing measures inside public spaces and on transport as early as this month, with travel restrictions also potentially being reimposed.

However, a full lockdown is said to be unlikely and would be a last resort.