POP-UP postcode lockdowns could be used to squash future outbreaks of new Covid variants under plans to end the national lockdown.
The PM has instructed Whitehall to come up with the blueprint after saying he wants to lift nationwide restrictions for good.
Local lockdowns could be used to stop new variants in their tracks[/caption]
Mass testing would target postcodes where new variants are discovered[/caption]
It will be built on the experiences of last year’s tiers system and this month’s localised mass-testing effort to contain the South African variant.
Targeted shutdowns would be imposed in post-codes where new variants are identified to stop the spread of potentially vaccine resistant mutations.
They will be accompanied by surge testing and a detailed contact tracing system to try and squash any outbreaks early on.
It comes as…
- The PM prepares to reveal his roadmap out of lockdown to the nation
- Pfizer warned the South African variant could reduce the effectiveness of its jab by two-thirds
- Tory MPs piled pressure. on Boris Johnson to go further and faster on lifting restrictions
The PM has said he wants the exit from the national lockdown to be “irreversible” which is why he’s taking a “cautious” approach.
But senior Government sources said he was aware there might still be the need for swift local crackdowns in future.
One said: “Clearly it is not a problem at the moment because of the existing lockdown restrictions.
“But there is a big question about what you do when lockdown does start lifting and we see variants that we have concerns about.
“It is definitely something that we’re aware of that will need to be considered.
“But we need to work out exactly what the mechanisms are that we need to have in place.”
Another said ministers are still deciding the form local curbs would take, and if they would “retain the stay-at-home-and-get-a-test message.”
Care minister Helen Whately[/caption]
Ministers want to end national restrictions for good[/caption]
But she was upbeat about the prospects that widespread curbs on daily life won’t have to be reintroduced in future.
She said: “The important thing is that in the weeks and months ahead we take the steps to come out of lockdown, to move on from the restrictions we’ve had to have over most of the last year.
“We have an enormous testing capacity as well, we’ve learnt a huge amount about the virus, we’ve got better treatments for it as well. So I see us being in a much better place as we come through this.”
Meanwhile, a top scientist warned people to expect further mutations this year as the virus responds to the vaccine rollout.
Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at the University of Oxford, said some mutations have “quite profound resistance” to existing immunity.
He told the Commons science committee: “We need to be ready to make new vaccines if we need them, but I am pretty clear our existing vaccines are going to work to some extent.”
Professor Dame Angela McLean, the deputy chief scientific adviser, told the same MPs there needs to be a “long gap” after reopening schools before any other parts of the economy are unlocked.
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He said: “If you’re driven by the data and not by dates, right now, you should be looking at earlier unlocking.”
And he said there is no evidence to suggest busy outdoor spaces, such as “crowded beaches”, are linked to outbreaks of the virus.