Local lockdown could shut everything from schools to parks

Liverpool could face a local lockdown even as people in nearby cities go to restaurants and schools as normal under the government's plans.

Speaking earlier on Friday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that rather than the whole country going into lockdown to halt the spread of coronavirus, future lockdowns would be local.

He said: "I know that it will be hard going for people affected by these local measures. It isn’t easy, and for some it may seem unjust that people just a short distance away can live their lives closer to normal.

"But it has to be right that we take local action in response to local outbreaks – there is no point shutting down a city in one part of the country to contain an outbreak in another part of the country."

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A local lockdown has already been enforced in Leicester, with restrictions due to relax next week.

But in future, both local councils and the Westminster government will have more powers to silence city streets.

How a local lockdown could be triggered

The risk of an outbreak will be measured in a number of ways, but some of the warning signs include a rise in deaths (mortality data), a jump in calls to the NHS reporting Covid-19 style symptoms, an increase in hospital admissions and the NHS' own data collected from its Test and Trace system which specifically tries to follow the spread of coronavirus.

The outbreaks could range from individual cases of Covid-19 to "clusters" where a number of cases appear in a common setting, sometimes without any obvious link.

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The lockdown that follows is likely to reflect the patterns that have emerged from this data.

What a local lockdown could look like

Local authorities like Liverpool Council will be able to close pubs and cafes, shut parks and cancel events like weddings.

But the national government could also intervene, either to support the local authority or take over if the outbreak is out of control.

This is what a local lockdown could look like, from least to strictest measures, according to the latest government guidance:

Public health posters

At the mild end, a local lockdown could involve lots more reminders to wash your hands, and wear face coverings.

These messages could be targeted at communities directly affected by the outbreak.

More testing

There may be more opportunities to get tested, and people in the local area may be asked to take a test even if they don't have any symptoms – for example, students in a shared house where one person has the virus, or members of staff in a workforce that is similarly affected.

Regular business inspections

Businesses can expect to be regularly inspected and certain venues can be closed down if necessary.

These include shops, cafes, gyms, recreation centres, offices, labs and warehouses.

Special support for those shielding

There may be special support for those most vulnerable and continuing to shield in certain areas, rather than the blanket measures taken up till now.

Events cancelled

Sporting events, concerts, weddings and religious services could be cancelled, even as elsewhere in the country they can go ahead.

Parks closed

Parks, playgrounds, beaches, outdoor swimming pools and other public spaces could be closed.

Schools partially shut or fully closed

Schools could be closed completely, except for vulnerable children and key worker families, or partially closed so that only the students with the most urgent need can attend.

Travel lockdown

Transport systems such as Merseyrail could be shut down for all but key workers.

What Liverpool Council says about local lockdowns

Liverpool Council has welcomed new powers to enforce local lockdowns as it says it is keeping a "close eye" on the data in areas of the south of the city where there have been spikes in cases.

Clusters of infections of young people in various parts of the south of the city caused concern last week and Liverpool's director of public health, Matt Ashton, said the new powers would help councils act on a very localised basis to tackle outbreaks when necessary.

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Mr Ashton said: “As we move into the next phase of tackling the virus, it is really important that we are able to act quickly on a very local basis to stop the spread of outbreaks and put in place appropriate measures. We have the local knowledge, expertise and networks that are needed.

“Identifying local flare ups will get faster as the quality and speed of the data that we are getting improves, and people will see testing stations popping up now and again near their house in the coming months as we seek to control the spread. These new measures will also help us.

“Our strong and effective relationships with schools, care homes, hospitals, businesses, and wider voluntary, community and faith sector is already providing us with fantastic intelligence which is helping greatly in our response.”