Second wave ‘inevitable’, but does that mean we should lockdown?

19 September 2020, 07:17

People, some wearing face masks, walk along Piccadilly in London
People, some wearing face masks, walk along Piccadilly in London. Picture: PA

Boris Johnson warned on Friday that an “inevitable” second wave of coronavirus cases is hitting the UK, fuelling fears of a second national lockdown. But is that the right approach?

The Prime Minister said there’s “no question” that Britain is seeing a second wave as infection numbers rise across the country, with the R rate now at between 1.1 and 1.4.

Mr Johnson said a second lockdown was the "last thing anybody wants" but that the current measures would need to be kept "under review".

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Earlier this week, he said locking down the whole country again would be financially “disastrous” for the UK and refused to rule one out.

But Sweden, where a national lockdown was not enforced, has seen case numbers below most countries in Europe despite not advising the wearing of masks or shutting down bars and restaurants.

According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), Sweden’s two-week total of new cases was 22.2 per 100,000 inhabitants on Tuesday.

On Friday, the PM said: "On Monday we brought in the measures that we did, the 'rule of six', to really try and restrict what people are doing and to bring in a new buffer - and to make it absolutely clear, the 'rule of six': indoors six maximum, six outdoors maximum.

"But the crucial thing is at the same time to observe the basic rules on social distancing - hands, face, space - that is what everybody has got to do if we want to continue to beat this thing.

"But as we look at this particular curve and what is happening now, clearly we are going to keep everything under review. I don't want to get into a second national lockdown at all, it is the last thing anybody wants.

"I don't want to go into bigger lockdown measures at all, we want to keep schools open and it is fantastic the schools have gone back in the way they have. We want to keep the economy open as far as we possibly can, we want to keep businesses going.

"The only way we can do that is obviously if people follow the guidance."

Sweden’s rate of 22.2 cases per 100,000 people compares to 279 in Spain, 158.5 in France, 118 in the Czech Republic, 77 in Belgium and 59 in the UK.

1.2 per cent of its 120,000 tests last week came back positive, compared with Rhondda Cynon Taf, which has headed back into local lockdown after their rate hit 4.3 per cent – the highest in Wales.

The PM said earlier this week that the Government will do "everything in its power" to prevent a second national lockdown, which would have "disastrous" financial consequences.

Asked by Conservative MP and chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, Julian Knight, whether the country could afford another national lockdown, Mr Johnson replied: "I don't want a second national lockdown - I think it would be completely wrong for this country and we are going to do everything in our power to prevent it.

"And can we afford it? I very much doubt that the financial consequences would be anything but disastrous, but we have to make sure that we defeat the disease by the means that we have set out.

"So when I see people arguing against the rule of six or saying that the Government is coming in too hard on individual liberties and so on - I totally understand that and I sympathise with that, but we must, must defeat this disease."