Restaurants, pubs and other hospitality businesses could be shut or asked to close early for a few weeks as part of a national “circuit break” to try to stop a surge in coronavirus cases in England getting out of control.
The government was considering the measures, according to the BBC’s political editor, Laura Kuenssberg, as the number of cases is doubling every seven to eight days, with more than 3,300 new cases reported on Thursday.
Schools and workplaces would remain open but hospitality businesses would close or change their opening hours for a few weeks.
The BBC also reported that new lockdown measures were expected to be introduced in Lancashire – with the exception of Blackpool. It follows local lockdowns brought in elsewhere in the north of England.
The government has yet to decide on whether to introduce circuit breaks. Boris Johnson is said to be against another national lockdown, which would mean the closure of shops and businesses.
The health and social care secretary, Matt Hancock, told Sky News a national lockdown was the “last line of defence” against coronavirus but said the government would “take the necessary action to keep people safe”.
Under the circuit break, restrictions could be reintroduced in some public spaces for a few weeks. One of the ideas suggested by the government’s Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (Sage) is that some parts of the hospitality sector could be asked to close.
The prime minister is also considering the possibility of limiting the opening hours of pubs and restaurants across the country.
An announcement about a potential lockdown in north-west England is expected from the government on Friday.
The restrictions for Lancashire, but not Blackpool, are thought to include a ban on households mixing and a requirement for hospitality businesses to close early. However, it is not yet known when the measures will come in but the BBC reported it would be imminent.
During a meeting on Wednesday night, the government’s chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, and medical officer, Chris Witty, predicted another serious outbreak of the disease. They forecast that there would be a significant number of deaths by the end of October without urgent intervention.