LONDON – For weeks, Prime Minister Boris Johnson turned down calls to implement another nationwide lockout on England. But now, faced with serious projections of a spiral death from coronavirus, he is weighing plans to shut down for a month in the country.
Plans that were previewed in several British newspapers on Saturday are in flux and may still fall short of a full national lockdown. But medical experts have warned that if the government does not take any action soon then the virus is spreading at a rate that will soon spread to hospitals.
Johnson’s cabinet was meeting on Saturday and the government said it would hold a news conference at 4 pm. A lockdown would bring England in line with France, Germany, Belgium and Ireland, all of which have shut down large parts of their society in a large-scale second wave transition escalation.
In March, when the virus first engulfed Europe, England lagged behind their European neighbors in replying. Mr. Johnson is caught between members of his Conservative Party, who argue that another lockdown will destroy the economy, and his scientific advisors, who argue that it is inevitable, given the exponential spread of the virus.
“They have no choice,” said Devi Sridhar, head of the global public health program at the University of Edinburgh. “It’s better today than today, and it would have been better tomorrow than today.”
Under lockdown consideration, pubs, restaurants and other non-commercial businesses will remain closed for a month, but schools and offices will remain open. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have already imposed such restrictions, making England an external position within the United Kingdom.
So far the Prime Minister’s vision was to order targeted lockdowns in hot spots such as Liverpool and Manchester, while to operate normally in less affected locations such as London.
Mr Johnson called the strategy “sewing in time to save nine”, although it has not melted down officials in the hard-hit cities who have complained that the government was singing them the wrong way.
But the latest numbers suggest that the tailored approach is no longer sufficient.
The government’s scientific advisory panel, known as the SAGE, estimated earlier this month that there are between 43,000 and 75,000 new infections a day in England, a rate that is well above the worst, Only the week before was calculated.
Admissions to the hospital are also going on in the worst case. The panel said that telling the audience that the National Health Service would not be able to cope with the influx of patients. It could lead to more than 85,000 UK virus-related deaths that scientists estimate could be reached this winter.
On Friday, Britain reported 24,405 new infections and hospitalized 1,489 patients with symptoms of Kovid-19, a disease caused by the virus. About 1,000 patients are in intensive care units, while 274 people died.
The total UK deaths from the virus are 58,925, the highest in Europe.
Politics has colored the debate on curbing the virus. The leader of the opposition Labor Party, Keir Starr, called Mr. Johnson two weeks ago to implement a two-week lockdown that scientists said would act as a “circuit breaker” on the series of broadcasts. He cited a report from the SAGE, which warned that Britain faced a “huge epidemic with disastrous consequences”.
Mr Johnson accused Mr Starr of failing to take into account the economic decline from such a move, which led to the rise of alarms by the influential cabinet minister, the treasury chancellor, Sage Sanak.
If Mr Johnson now imposes a lockdown, analysts said, it could hurt within his party because it would look like he is yielding to pressure from the opposition. But polls indicate that the British public is more sympathetic.
The government is likely to introduce a November lockdown as a way to celebrate Christmas. By cutting the transmission rate, it could relax restrictions in December to allow families and friends to celebrate together.
British papers have been in the news about whether Mr Johnson will “cancel Christmas”. He has insisted that he wants university students to reunite with their families during the holidays.
While medical experts generally praised reports of imminent lockdowns, some questioned why the government didn’t act sooner, such as during the midterm school break, which public health experts proposed earlier this month .
Others said that the government had still not fixed its test and trace system, which continued to fall far short of its targets. Until this happens, experts said, Britain would not be identified and would try to break the chains of transmission – setting the stage for further outbreaks after the lockdown was lifted.
“You use lockdown to build testing and tracing,” said Ms. Sridhar. “We will be stuck in these cycles of lockdowns and releases until they decide that we can’t live with this virus because it is killing our economy.”