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Coronavirus: Schools and businesses could see ‘local lockdowns’

Taped off library books, St Margaret's C of E Primary School, Bury

Local lockdowns could see schools and businesses targeted in areas of England that have “flare-ups” of coronavirus, the communities secretary has said.

Robert Jenrick said restrictions could be introduced at “a micro level” to control the virus in particular communities.

The measures will be part of the test and trace system, to be introduced next week, he said.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock will give more details shortly, Mr Jenrick added.

It comes after Mr Hancock told Tuesday’s coronavirus briefing that “local lockdowns” could be introduced to tackle flare-ups of the virus.

Mr Jenrick said the government’s test, track and trace system would have a “local element” and identify flare-ups in particular places, such as parts of towns, schools, hospitals and workplaces.

“That enables us then to take action in that place which will be restrictive on the individuals who live and work there… but as a result of that we’ll be able to provide greater freedom to millions of other people across the country, enabling us to continue to ease the lockdown, ease the return to school, to work and to the daily activities that we all want to get back to,” he told the BBC.

Under government plans to ease lockdown restrictions, the Joint Biosecurity Centre will identify changes in infection rates – using testing, environmental and workplace data – and advise chief medical officers.

As a result, schools, businesses or workplaces could be closed in areas that see spikes in infection rates, the government’s plan says.

Earlier this month Mr Jenrick said that it was the government’s “strong preference” for lockdown measures to be lifted uniformly, but some restrictions could be reintroduced locally if necessary.

But he said the local interventions that could soon be considered are “quite different from making major changes to lockdown measures in one part of the country versus another”.

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