The government is repeatedly dodging calls for tighter restrictions despite rising Covid cases in the UK – so does this mean Britain could be heading for another its fourth lockdown in less than two years?
Will there be another lockdown?
There are no current plans to introduce a lockdown any time soon. Boris Johnson has claimed there is “nothing in the data” to suggest the UK needs to tighten restrictions – but he also refused to “rule anything out”.
Hospitalisations would need to reach almost 1,500 a day for the NHS to be overwhelmed, triggering another lockdown. Government data shows there are currently around 880 people admitted each day.
Deaths from Covid remain relatively low, too, compared to the previous rates seen shortly before lockdowns in March 2020, November 2020, and January 2021.
Sky News’ science correspondent Thomas Moore has also said the government has shown “no inclination towards tightening up the rules” or even bringing in plan B.
The prime minister has refused to implement plan B – mandatory face masks and working from home – relying on the vaccine take-up and boosters instead.
The government has promised to keep an eye on the data but also appears wary of bringing about the same anti-lockdown protests seen across Europe.
Only a “firebreak” lockdown will be used if necessary, although business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told Sky News in October: “I would rule this out.”
Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi has also claimed the UK’s early and successful vaccine rollout means it’s unlikely that more restrictions will be brought in.
What’s happening in Europe?
Yet, Covid cases have certainly been climbing in Europe in recent weeks.
Austria became the first Western country to go into another full, national lockdown in November while Germany’s health minister Jens Spahn warned that by the end of winter, most of the country will be “vaccinated, cured or dead”.
The Netherlands, Belgium, Hungary, Croatia, Ireland, Slovakia and Czechia are all struggling with infections too.
However, Professor Neil Ferguson from Imperial College London, part of the government independent advisory panel SAGE, told Radio 4′s Today programme that the UK has already gone through the wave Europe is experiencing, and so the population has greater immunity compared to Germany and Austria.
Will Christmas be cancelled?
As Christmas 2020 was effectively cancelled just six days before December 25, this is a major concern for many families this year.
Health secretary Sajid Javid said in October: “With winter ahead, we cannot blow it now.
“Although vaccinations are our primary form of defence, there are many more things we can all do to help contain the spread of this virus, like meeting outdoors where it is possible.”
He added Christmas is possible “if we all play our part”.
Dr Mike Tildesley, part of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling group (Spi-M) told Sky News, “the idea of a winter lockdown is a long way away” unless the NHS comes under severe pressure again.
What you can do to stay safe in winter
As the UK’s future with Covid remains difficult to predict, you can reduce your own Covid risk in the upcoming months through several simple measures.
Make sure you ventilate your home for at least 10 minutes every hour. This prevents Covid from building up indoors.
Get vaccinated if you haven’t already and make sure you accept your booster jab when you are called up by the NHS.
Get your flu jab as the annual virus is likely to affect people more this year following last year’s lockdown – catching the flu could then make you more susceptible to Covid.
Wear a mask in crowded places, both indoors and outdoors, and wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds when you can.
Work from home where possible and reduce the number of people you see, or try to see more people outdoors.