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The claims come after Johnson was forced to announce a slow down of the lockdown easing on Friday, with planned relaxations for the leisure and beauty sectors delayed after a rise in Covid-19 cases was recorded, with prevalence in the community thought to be rising for the first time since May.
The Times reported the Conservative Party leader held a “war game” session with chancellor Rishi Sunak on Wednesday to run through possible options for averting another nationwide lockdown that could stall any potential economic recovery.
Under the proposals, a greater number of people would be asked to take part in the shielding programme, based on their age or particular risk factors that have been identified since March, said the Telegraph.
It could even see those aged between 50 and 70 given “personalised risk ratings”, said the Times, in a move that would add to the 2.2 million who were deemed most vulnerable and asked to shield themselves from society during the spring peak.
The advice was only lifted on Saturday for those in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and remains in place until August 16 for those shielding in Wales, PA Media reports.
Other ideas mooted should the R-rate escalate in the capital include restricting travel beyond the M25 and putting a stop to staying at other people’s houses – similar to policies implemented in local lockdowns imposed in Leicester and parts of the north-west of England in recent days.
But Downing Street sources distanced themselves from the detail in the reports, calling them “speculative”.
And on Sunday morning, housing secretary Robert Jenrick when asked about whether new age-related measures were likely, told Times Radio: “This is just speculation.
“You would expect the Government to be considering all of the range of options that might be available.
“That’s not something that is being actively considered.”
Meanwhile, former England midfielder Paul Scholes has been accused of holding a party at his Oldham home to celebrate his son’s 21st on the same day lockdown measures were reimposed across parts of England’s north-west.
The Sun cited phone footage as showing revellers ignoring social distancing “as they drank and danced” at the seven-hour party, with the paper citing Tory MP Andrew Bridgen criticising Scholes for “reckless behaviour”. Greater Manchester Police have been approached for comment over the alleged incident.
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said people in his area “on the whole” had been brilliant “and I reject efforts to blame some for breaking lockdown rules”.
Writing in the Sunday Mirror, Burnham called on the government to ensure people in low-paid, insecure jobs are financially supported if they have to self-isolate due to coronavirus.
He wrote: “We shouldn’t spend taxpayers’ money on subsidising meals out but not support the low-paid to take time off work to protect their health.”
On top of the alleged lockdown avoidance preparations, experts have speculated that ministers might have to order the closure of pubs, which were permitted to start serving again on July 4, if schools are to reopen fully in September.
Professor Graham Medley, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said earlier a “trade off” could be required if the Prime Minister’s pledge is to be met.
His comments followed chief medical officer professor Chris Whitty’s remarks that the country was “near the limit” for opening up society following the coronavirus lockdown.
Meanwhile, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) was forced to deny that it had abandoned its pledge to regularly test care home residents through the summer following a leaked memo from professor Jane Cummings, the government’s adult social care testing director.
The Tory administration has come in for criticism for failing to do more to prevent Covid-19 infections from reaching care homes, where some of the country’s most vulnerable population reside, during the initial spring peak.
According to the Times, prof Cummings wrote to local authority leaders to inform them that “previously advised timelines for rolling out regular testing in care homes” were being altered because of “unexpected delays”.
Regular testing of residents and staff was meant to have started on July 6 but will now be pushed back until September 7 for older people and those with dementia, PA news agency understands.