Government hints at what ‘Lockdown 2.0’ might mean for pubs, schools and offices

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to give an update to Parliament on Tuesday, where he will outline the next phase of the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

While a full lockdown remains a possibility, the PM is said to be very keen to avoid that.

But government sources have warned that England is in the "last-chance saloon" – with Matt Hancock refusing to guarantee that pubs will still be allowed to open normally this weekend.

Pubs and restaurants are already closing at 10pm across certain areas of the country, including the North East and Bolton, where the R rate is reported to be particularly high.

No.10 is now looking at whether to implement a similar policy England-wide.

Asked on ITV's This Morning if Brits would “be in the pubs this weekend”, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “We will be absolutely clear about changes that we need to make in the very, very near future.

“It's not a 'no' and it's not a 'yes'. We haven't taken the final decisions about what we need to do in response to the surge that we are seeing.

“The exact timing hasn't quite been set.”

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While a national lockdown remains unlikely, a growing number of mini-lockdowns are being introduced.

Well over 10million people are already under local restrictions and, with the the number of infections in the capital soaring, London is expected to follow suit any day now.

In Wales, health minister, Vaughan Getting has said new restrictions in four areas of the principality would come into force at 6pm tomorrow.

Health secretary Matt Hancock has said that "where people catch the disease tends to be in social settings" – a strong hint that pubs, bars and restaurants will be the focus of any new restrictions.

A number of possible new restrictions have been rumoured – along with the threat of increased penalties for breaking the rules. Officials are said to be considering increasing the £100 fine for breaking the 'rule of six' in England to £200.

From September 28 here will also be £1,000 fines, rising to £10,000 in the most severe cases, for breaching self-isolation.

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A stricter ban on household mingling is also thought to be under consideration. The government’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said a briefing today: “We have to break unnecessary links between households because that is the way in which this virus is transmitted.”

Hinting that this might mean another period of people being asked to work from home, he added: “And this means reducing social contacts whether they are at work,

Getting around could be limited as well, with the public potentially being asked to only use public transport for travel for work, school or medical appointments.

Combined with the higher penalties for flouting the rules, these restrictions constitute a “last ditch” attempt to avoid a national lockdown. The only other weapon in the Government’s armoury is the two week “circuit breaker – where schools and workplaces are kept open but leisure facilities such as bars and restaurants are closed.

Timing that to coincide with the schools’ half term in October would make the circuit beaker easier to implement, but experts have warned two weeks is not long enough to have a real impact.

The government is known to be strongly opposed to school closures. Mr Hancock said “relatively few” cases are caught through schools or work and asked if we could return to home-schooling, he replied: "I really, really want to avoid that."

Although the exact details of the restrictions won’t be known until tomorrow lunchtime at the earliest, Brits can expect to be living under some measure of lockdown for at least six months.

Even Christmas may not be safe. While one wild rumour involved the Rule of Six being suspended for Christmas Day, Matt hHancock would only say that Christmas would be “as normal as possible.”

The Health Secretary told ITV: "I want Christmas to be as normal as possible and the more we can control the virus now and stop the spread now, the easier it’s going to be to have a Christmas that’s as close to normal as possible."

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