Over-50s coronavirus lockdown – will shielding return with new risk ratings?

Reports have suggested the Government is considering an ‘over-50s coronavirus lockdown’ among new measures to stamp out any new spikes in the disease.

But what is the latest on this idea?

The news came yesterday when Boris Johnson was said to be drawing up plans to avoid a second nationwide lockdown.

The Prime Minister is considering asking the elderly to shield once again and is considering a lockdown for London should there be a second wave of coronavirus infections, The Sunday Telegraph and The Sunday Times said.

The Times reported the Conservative Party leader held a “war game” session with Chancellor Rishi Sunak on Wednesday to run through possible options for averting another nationwide lockdown that could stall any potential economic recovery.

Under the proposals, a greater number of people would be asked to take part in the shielding programme, based on their age or particular risk factors that have been identified since March, said the Telegraph.

It could even see those aged between 50 and 70 given “personalised risk ratings”, said the Times, in a move that would add to the 2.2 million who were deemed most vulnerable and asked to shield themselves from society during the spring peak.

Reports say the Prime Minister is considering asking the elderly to shield once again, with personalised risk ratings for those aged 50 to 70

Other ideas that could be implemented if the R-rate escalates in the capital include restricting travel beyond the M25 and putting a stop to staying at other people’s houses – similar to policies implemented in local lockdowns imposed in Leicester and parts of the north-west of England in recent days.

But Downing Street sources distanced themselves from the detail in the reports, calling them “speculative”.

Since the initial surprise of yesterday’s reports, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has cast doubt on reports of fresh draconian new lockdown restrictions for London and said talk of an expanded shielding programme was “just speculation”.

Cabinet minister Mr Jenrick suggested the mooted increase in shielding was “not something that is being actively considered”.

Mr Jenrick, when asked about whether new age-related measures were likely, told Times Radio: “This is just speculation.

“You would expect the Government to be considering all of the range of options that might be available.

“That’s not something that is being actively considered.”

He also said there was “no plan, as far as I’m aware” to bring in travel controls and restrictions on where Londoners could stay as part of efforts to avoid any increased transmission rate in the capital from spreading to the rest of the country.

In addition, the Mayor of London wrote to the Prime Minister to express “great surprise” over the suggestion that the Government reportedly plans to use the M25 to seal off the capital if there is a spike in Covid-19 infections.

A letter sent to Mr Johnson from Sadiq Khan and chair of London Councils Peter John said: “It is with great surprise that we read in the Sunday papers that Government held a critical exercise last week in which a major resurgence in Covid-19 infections in London was a central scenario.

“According to media reports, the plans included using the M25 as a quarantine ring – effectively sealing off the city.

“Our surprise is that such far-reaching contingency plans have been discussed and tested without the involvement or awareness of London’s government.

“This is clearly totally unacceptable and an affront to London and Londoners.”

Downing Street said the ability to impose travel restrictions had been set out in its strategy for preventing the spread of coronavirus but denied it was a plan specifically drawn up for the capital.

The “Contain” strategy sets out “the possibility of putting in place restrictions on travel if there is an area that is particularly badly affected”.

“One of the steps within that potentially includes closing down local transport networks,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.

“It’s there, it’s contained in the document, it’s not a new thing – we have informed the public and politicians of that being a potential action that we could take.

“But, to be clear, it’s not something that is specific to London or anywhere else.”


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