BRITAIN could face another lockdown in October if Covid cases surge again, a minister suggested today.
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi refused to rule out the return of some restrictions during the Autumn half-term to get the virus under control.
But he expressed hopes a successful booster jabs campaign will help the UK avoid a full shutdown which would be "the worst thing we can do".
A senior Sage scientist has said the Government is already planning a mini "firebreak" lockdown if hospital admissions spiral.
It would see schools close for an extra week at October half-term, with mask wearing and social distancing brought back in public places.
Travel restrictions could also be reimposed, although it is not thought a full shutdown and stay at home orders would be necessary.
It came as…
- Boris warned the NHS will never recover from Covid without tax rises
- The UK passed the grim milestone of 7,000 Coronavirus infections
- Ministers confirmed plans to bring in vaccine passports this winter
- Mr Zahawi said kids will be able to overrule parents to get jabbed
Mr Zahawi did not deny that the plans have been drawn up, although he suggested he hadn't seen them.
He said: "I don't want to adjust the half-term or go back to any form of lockdowns, because that's the worst thing we can do to the economy.
"I am absolutely focused on making sure we don't have to reverse all the great gains we've made on reopening the economy."
But he admitted there is "upward pressure on infections" because "we've reopened the economy to pretty much as close to normal as you can get".
The vaccines minister said rolling out the booster jab programme to the most vulnerable ahead of winter is "my absolute priority".
He said: "If we do that well we can continue on this one way road towards sustaining the opening of the economy, and by next year hopefully transitioning this virus from pandemic to endemic and dealing with it on an annual basis."
Asked about the prospect of schools closing, he added: "We want to make sure they stay open and the way you do that is by protecting the most vulnerable."
An anonymous scientist advising the Government told the i newspaper the UK is about to enter “an extended peak” of infections and hospitalisations.
He said plans for a "precautionary break" have already been drawn up in case the NHS is at risk of being overwhelmed.
“It would be sensible to have contingency plans, and if a lockdown is required, to time it so that it has minimal economic and societal impact.
“Hospitals might be overflowing before deaths reach the same level. Acting early will prevent this level.”
I am absolutely focused on making sure we don't have to reverse all the great gains we've made on reopening the economy
But the scientist said the vaccination rollout means this winter is unlikely to be anywhere near as bad as last year.
He added: "It’s not really the same situation as last year, when failure to reduce prevalence would have resulted in collapse of NHS and people dying in car parks."
Similar plans were drawn up for a circuit-breaker lockdown to curb rising transmissions in October last year.
But it had to be abandoned in favour of a full-blown lockdown as spiralling cases of the Kent variant threatened to overwhelm the NHS.
No 10 has also refused to rule out the possibility of fresh restrictions this Autumn.
The PM's spokesman would only say: "With regards to what comes next we need to carefully monitor the situation.
"As a responsible government, we retain the ability to take further steps if necessary but it is thanks to significant defences of vaccination programme that we are able to be one of the most open societies in Europe.
"And we will continue to push forward with vaccination programmes and that remains the case."
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