Northern Ireland Announce Four-Week ‘Circuit Breaker’ Lockdown But Will England Follow Suit? Johnson Doesn’t Rule It Out

By Rachael Grealish

Northern Ireland is going into a four-week ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown – but what does this mean for the rest of the UK?

First Minister Arlene Foster confirmed the temporary lockdown, saying the school half-term holiday would be extended, and now last from October 19 to 30.

She went on to confirm Pubs and restaurants will have to shut unless they offer a takeaway service, but places of worship, shops and gyms can stay open – but overnight stays in other homes are banned.

And, Northern Ireland isn’t the only country to strengthen its COVID restrictions, the news came as Wales prepares to ban people from parts of the UK that have high rates of coronavirus from travelling to the country from Friday, October 16, at 6pm.

Boris Johnson has currently taken a different approach to curve the rise in cases, but will Northern Ireland be leading the way to inspire him further?

On Monday, October 12, the Prime Minister confirmed England would be under his new three-tier system – tier three, implemented on Liverpool, would have the highest restrictions and tier one, the one the majority of the country is in, would have rules almost the same prior to the announcement. 

However, the leader of the opposition, Sir Keir Starmer, made a statement yesterday, Tuesday October 13, saying: “The government has not got a credible plan to slow infections. It has lost control of the virus and it’s no longer following scientific advice.”

He then went on to propose England should have a ‘two or three week’ ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown in an attempt to get the soaring cases of COVID-19 under control.

In his plan the Labour leader said:

  • Only essential work and travel would be allowed and everyone who can work from home should do so
  • Non-essential offices should be closed
  • Household mixing should be restricted to one household except for those who have formed support bubbles
  • UK Parliament should ‘move to remote working’

Today, Wednesday October 14, Starmer argued with Johnson in PMQs about the science behind the three-tier system, which the PM defended. 

Speaking in the House of Commons, Starmer said his proposal would mean that ‘all pubs, bars and restaurants would be closed’ and compensated ‘so that no business loses out because of the sacrifices we all need to make’.

The opposition leader also said the PMhad rejected the advice of government science advisers, who had suggested a circuit-breaker when they met on September 21.

However, while speaking to the House Johnson said his new policy ‘can bring down the virus’ but that he did not rule out going further.

He said: “I rule out nothing of course in combating the virus, but we are going to do it with the local, the regional approach that can drive down and will drive down the virus, if it is properly implemented.”

This may be the case as a separate scientific report has suggested a two-week circuit-breaker at the end of this month may halve coronavirus deaths between now and the end of the year.

The report by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) estimates ‘it could rewind the clock by 28 days’, as reported by the BBC. 

The latest figures for the UK show a further 19,724 coronavirus cases were recorded, while 137 more people have died within 28 days of testing positive for the virus.

As cases continue to rise, alongside hospital admissions and, unfortunately, deaths, only time will tell if England will follow suit and a ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown is implemented.