Saturday, 28 Nov 2020

Coronavirus: Short ‘circuit break’ national lockdown ‘an enigma’, claims Dominic Raab

A short “circuit break” national lockdown is “something of an enigma” and a “blunt tool” in dealing with rising coronavirus cases, a senior cabinet minister has told Sky News.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab defended the government’s three-tiered system of localised lockdowns in England to tackle the second wave of COVID-19 infections, despite growing pressure for further national measures.

“The most important thing is to keep targeting the virus where it is picking up, where it is gathering momentum, which is why the targeted, localised, focused, approach – not just with restrictions but with the financial support – is the right approach and that’s the way we’ll avoid the rather blanket, blunt tool of a national lockdown,” he said.

Members of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), as well as Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, have called for a two or three week “circuit break” national lockdown in England to reverse the transmission of the virus.

Northern Ireland and Wales have both taken such action, while France and Germany have also announced fresh lockdown measures as the second wave of coronavirus spreads across Europe.

Meanwhile, Professor Gina Radford – a former deputy chief medical officer for England – has told Sky News a second national lockdown is “very, very likely” this winter.

But, standing firm behind the government’s localised approach, Mr Raab claimed those who advocate a circuit break have “never been able to say how you get out of it”.

“So the idea of a short, sharp circuit breaker is, frankly, something of an enigma,” he added.

“No one can say, if you go into a national lockdown, at what point you get out of it.

“So I think that would not only be damaging in economic terms, it wouldn’t be the targeted approach in epidemiological terms and it would create great uncertainty.”

Mr Raab promised that ministers would “strain every sinew, work with local leaders, provide financial support but target the virus where the uptick is the most threatening”.

Parts of England, such as Greater Manchester, have been under localised restrictions since the end of July, which have since been upgraded to Tier 3 measures.

Challenged as to how those areas under the most stringent restrictions could subsequently exit them, Mr Raab replied: “With all of the targeted approaches, the advantage you’ve got is we would examine the data locally so there is a review process in place for all the tiered, localised restrictions that we’ve got.”

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Hours before Nottinghamshire became the latest area of England to enter Tier 3 measures, large groups of people in fancy dress drank alcohol and chanted near police vehicles.

And the foreign secretary acknowledged that “people become weary with the state of play” amid the continuing coronavirus pandemic.

But he urged the public to follow the government’s localised rules, adding: “What’s most important at this time is everyone leans into this.”

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