The tougher measures put in place throughout the UK for the January lockdown are projected to last for at least another month, until after February half term. This is to prevent the NHS from being completely overwhelmed with surging cases of Covid-19.
Schools are shut, exams have been cancelled for 2021, non-essential shops, hairdressers, gyms and all hospitality venues have closed.
With the UK reaching its highest daily record of 1,610 deaths in one day this week and the grim fact that the country currently has the worst daily death rate in the world, it’s not surprise that there have reports the government have considered if an even tougher lockdown in the UK is necessary.
Here’s what we know so far about if lockdown rules will get stricter:
Will lockdown rules get tougher in the UK?
There hasn’t been any confirmation that the lockdown rules are changing just yet. Although, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has previously suggested that the lockdown rules for the UK could get stricter if people don’t follow the ones already in place.
Matt Hancock said, “A flex to the rules can be fatal. If people push the boundaries of these rules or do not take them seriously, that can lead to more cases and that can lead to more deaths.
“We keep these things under review and we have demonstrated that we’re willing to tighten the rules if they need to be tightened.”
How might lockdown rules get stricter?
One of the measures that could be reviewed are the lockdown exercise rules. These currently allow two people from different households to meet up. While the rule is still in place for the moment, the health secretary has stressed that groups of people meeting outside socially are “not acceptable”.
The fact that nurseries have been allowed to stay open in lockdown this time around has caused some debate this year already. Labour leader Keir Starmer has called for them to close to help stop the spread, and his voice joins that of some nursery workers, who are also calling for the childcare settings to close temporarily to protect staff.
Mr Starmer said, “This is the most serious stage of the pandemic and therefore, we have to face the most serious restrictions. I think a lot of people will be quite surprised primary schools are closed, and nurseries are open.”
Click-and-collect services are another allowance that could be scrapped in the review of the lockdown rules, as the Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi said that he had concerns people weren’t following the rules when they go shopping.
“We are concerned that, for example, in supermarkets we need to make sure people actually wear masks and follow the one-way rule in supermarkets.” He said, “And, of course, when they are at capacity – to operate safely, people wait outside supermarkets.”
This could mean that the number of shoppers allowed into stores could become the law and click-and-collect could be off the table. It could also mean a change to takeaway services. While takeaways are safe to order during lockdown, the rules may tighten to mean you cannot collect your order from inside the shop or restaurant and must pick it up in an outside setting or have the meal delivered.
Multiple supermarkets have banned people not wearing face masks from entering their stores already, so the government could tighten the advice to make sure that everyone (except those who are exempt) wears a face mask.
It comes as London’s Metropolitan Police commissioner Dame Cressida Dick echoed the health secretary’s concerns that people were not following the rules. She told LBC Radio that people should call the police if their neighbours are constantly breaking the rules. She said that she didn’t want everyone to be snooping on each other, but “if you do have concerns that somebody is persistently not complying with the restrictions, then yeah you should talk to us. If you feel comfortable to do so, then talk to us.”
Emphasising that it was “small minority” who were failing to comply with the regulations, she said that police are increasing lockdown fines to those who are “completely reckless” by gathering in large groups.
Rule breaking has long been proven to have an impact on infections, as well as ineffective government policies, so it’s one of the reasons that the government are considering tightening the rules in the next couple of months while the vaccine is rolled out.
Some councils, however, evidently feel like the government aren’t doing enough to stop the spread in particular areas and have taken matters into their own hans. Local authorities in Essex, Hampshire, Sussex and Hertfordshire have closed some children’s playgrounds for example.
Even though playgrounds have been allowed to stay open in the third lockdown, the councils reportedly shut the gates again because of the rocketing numbers of coronavirus cases in the area and increased activity in the playground. Colchester Borough, for example, closed down a large playground after 110 children were recorded using the play apparatus at one time.
So while the government might not step in to tighten the restrictions, local authorities could stop people themselves.
When is the next review of lockdown?
The next review of the third lockdown is on January 20, followed by a second review on February 2.
When Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the lockdown in early January, he assured the public that the rules would be reviewed every two weeks to keep an eye on the situation and any escalating problems.
This means that the lockdown rules could become tougher in the UK (or more relaxed) by the end of January. However it’s likely that for the time being, they’ll stay just as they are.