How A 'Circuit Break' Lockdown Works – And Why It's Needed

Natasha Hinde
·2-min read

On top of local lockdowns and curfews, England could be braced for a two-week ‘circuit-break’ lockdown to try and curb a rapid rise in infections.

The aim would be to reduce socialising by asking hospitality businesses including pubs and restaurants to close early, or close completely, while schools and workplaces stay open. Households would also be urged not to mix.

But it wouldn’t be as drastic as the national lockdown at the start of the pandemic, where people were only allowed to leave their homes once a day.

So, why is it needed? The news comes as reports suggest Covid-19 cases are doubling each week, and an epidemiologist in the UK has said we’re already in the second wave. “It’s already happening: cases are up, hospitalisations are up, [the number of] people on ventilators are up,” says professor David Hunter, of the University of Oxford.

There’s a two-week lag between cases going up and hospitalisations going up, then more lag between hospitalisations rising and ventilators being used, he says. Government data shows the number of UK patients in mechanical ventilation beds rose from 82 on September 1, to 124 on September 16.


Meanwhile the number of confirmed Covid-19 patients admitted to hospital at the start of the month was 131. This rose to 248 patients admitted in hospitals in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (data for Scotland wasn’t provided at the time of writing) on September 15. And more cases of Covid-19 will be flying under the radar, especially with demand for testing outstripping capacity to supply and process the tests.

Yvonne Doyle, medical director at Public Health England, is “worried” by the increase in rates of admission to hospital and intensive care among older people. “This could be a warning of far worse things to come,” she said.

Estimates from the Office...

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