What We Know About The Chances Of A Second UK Lockdown

New rules and local guidelines make the "new normal" rather confusing.

With lockdown easing in the UK, more shops and businesses are reopening, social restrictions continue to loosen, and lives are very slowly returning to (something more like) "normal". But will there be a second lockdown in the UK, and will there be a second wave later this year? It is impossible to say for sure, but here’s everything we know so far.

What are the current infection rates in the UK?

The seven-day average up to September 8 is currently at 2,199 cases but overall, there have been 8,396 new cases reported since Sunday September 6 – with 2,659 reported on Wednesday (September 9) alone.

In total, government figures report that 355,219 people have tested positive for the virus, and 41,594 have lost their lives. At its peak, on May 1, daily cases were at 6,201.

Which areas are having local lockdowns?

As an alternative to whole-country lockdowns, the UK government is now attempting to manage the spread of coronavirus by putting areas of the country with heightened numbers of coronavirus cases under local lockdowns.

The most well-publicised city to face a local lockdown was Leicester. In an announcement on June 29, Matt Hancock explained that the local lockdown was happening due to alarming new rates of infection in the area, despite the city’s mayor Sir Peter Soulsby saying that the lockdown was “not justified." Increased restrictions lasted until early August, when they began to be lifted incrementally. At the time of writing (Sept. 10) non-essential shops, schools, and most social venues and swimming pools, gyms and sports facilities have been allowed to open. People from different households are not allowed to meet at home or in the garden, but they can meet in a public outdoor space. Casinos, skating rinks, bowling alleys, exhibition halls, conference centres, and indoor play areas remain closed. The restrictions are due to be reviewed again next week.

As of September 9, local lockdowns are ongoing in areas across the north of England, including Manchester, Lancashire, and West Yorkshire, as well as the latest region to have further restrictions implemented, in Bolton. The reintroduction of some regulations, including only allowing takeaways and putting a restriction on nightlife, comes after plans to ease existing restrictions in Bolton were scrapped last week following a spike in Covid-19 cases. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the increase to 120 cases per 100,000 in the Greater Manchester town is currently "the highest case rate in the country" as he addressed the Commons on Tuesday (September 8).

Restriction of night time operating hours means that all venues, including takeaways, will be required to close from 10pm to 5am, and all hospitality for food and drink, including bars and pubs, are now restricted to takeaway only in Bolton. It will also be illegal for people to socialise with those outside their own household in any setting, even outdoors. Schools, however, will continue to welcome pupils.

In July, a Herefordshire farm became the first business in the country to go into lockdown after 73 workers tested positive for COVID-19. On August 12, it was reported that the virus had been “successfully contained.” On August 23, another business, Greencore in Northampton, went into lockdown after an outbreak in its factories.

What restrictions are imposed on Scotland?

Local lockdowns in Scotland began in Aberdeen after a significant increase in COVID-19 cases in the city, including two Aberdeen FC footballers who tested positive after going to a bar with six other players. Further targeted lockdowns came into place in Glasgow city, West Dunbartonshire and East Renfrewshire last week (September 3) with East Dunbartonshire and Renfrewshire following suit this week from September 7. Over 1.1million people are being told not to host people from other households inside their own homes, or visit another person’s home. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has warned that there is a “definite trend” of increased case numbers across Scotland but hoped that acting quickly now could “stem the tide of transmission.”

Which other countries are having second lockdowns?

Many countries and regions around the world are implementing a second round of lockdown measures (or some form of added public health measures and restrictions) in order to curb the spread of the virus.

In the U.S., for example, states including California, New York, and Ohio, are seeing restrictions being put back in place after increasing infection rates. As a whole, America has seen a huge surge in cases, with an average of 6.38 million people having had COVID-19. In New York 32,611 people have lost their lives to the virus. California has seen the biggest outbreak with an estimated 749,000 cases.

Countries including Brazil, Russia, and Mexico have all seen a rise in cases following easing of initial lockdowns. France has recorded the second highest daily case figures as infections rise across Europe. Covid-19 infections rose by more than 8,500 for the third time in six days (as at September 9), with the disease spreading at its fastest pace since it emerged in the country. India has seen an increase of 29 percent in cases over the past two weeks (two weeks until September 10), recording more than four million overall cases and has been averaging more than 95,000 infections each day.

India has recorded more than three million cases and has been averaging more than 60,000 new infections each day.

Others countries have enforced local lockdowns to tackle the outbreaks, including Germany, where residents of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia were told they would have to stay home again. Spain appears to have suffered the worst second spike as of August 11. Travellers from the UK have been told they will have to quarantine for two weeks if they are returning from a number of countries including Greece and Spain following a surge in infections, with reviews taking place frequently and the government updating guidelines all the time.

Will there be a second wave of coronavirus later this year?

There are no clear answers on how the virus will manifest in the coming months, but experts believe we should be prepared for the worst.

"A second wave is almost inevitable, particularly as we go towards the winter months," Professor Jonathan Ball, a virologist at the University of Nottingham, told the BBC in late June. And with no vaccine available at present and local flare-ups happening around Europe, many agree with him.

Scientists have warned that the UK could see “about 120,000 new coronavirus deaths” if there is a second wave. In a report requested by chief scientific advisor Sir Patrick Vallance, the “reasonable” worst-case scenario could see “24,500 and 251,00 of virus-related deaths in hospitals alone, peaking in January and February,” per BBC News. Research shown in the report also suggests that COVID-19 may “survive longer in colder conditions and is more likely to spread when people spend more time indoors.”

With this in mind, the NHS in England is set to receive an extra £3 billion of funding to prepare for a possible second wave of coronavirus this winter. Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed this funding at a press conference on July 17, with Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland also set to receive additional funds. Johnson also affirmed the new testing capacity target, which will be increased to 500,000 coronavirus tests a day by the end of October.

Concerns have emerged about the government’s decisions on easing lockdown measures, including opening pubs on July 4 and casinos, bowling alleys, and indoor performing arts venues on August 15. With plans for students to return to school in September, the Independent Sage group of scientists has said that Boris Johnson may have to reconsider some of these decisions.

Will there be a second lockdown in the UK?

Boris Johnson has been firm in his stance about not wanting to introduce another national lockdown, telling the Telegraph that the option was akin to a "nuclear deterrent." He and his top aides are reportedly devising a plan that will prevent a second total lockdown around the country. Ideas include the targeted local lockdowns as previously mentioned and reintroducing some restrictions to keep the spread of Covid-19 at bay. In an announcement made by the government on September 8, Health Secretary Matt Hancock reintroduced a limit on the number of people able to meet for a social gathering indoors or outdoors to six people, effective from September 14. The latest government guidance applies to only England at this point, and comes after a steep spike in confirmed COVID-19 cases. Overall, there have been 8,396 new cases reported since Sunday (September 6) with 2,460 reported on Tuesday (September 8) alone.

Close contact within homes remains the most common risk factor of transmission, as identified by contact tracers, with the second most common form of transmission is with visitors to their household, according to data gathered by England’s NHS Test and Trace service. Both risk factors come ahead of leisure venues, shops, workplaces and health and care settings, and the government hopes that by curbing the most common risk factors that we can prevent a second wave in the future. As we enter into the colder months, curbing transmissions from spending time in other households is the government’s top priority.

However, on August 22, senior government advisers warned that a second national lockdown could be imposed due to the fact that the R rate had been pushed over one for the first time since restrictions eased. (As of Sept. 9 the R rate in the UK was at 0.9-1.1.) Johnsons’ chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance also suggested that a national lockdown could be necessary, though nothing has yet been confirmed.

Contributions from Alice Broster, Rebecca Fearn, Niellah Arboine, Sophie McEvoy, Orla Pentelow, and L’Oréal Blackett.

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