Coronavirus lockdown restrictions could be lifted first in Britain’s islands as test for rest of country, Michael Gove says
Jobs involving outdoor work could also be early beneficiaries
Lockdown restrictions could be lifted initially in Britain’s islands in what would be a test case for the rest of the country, Michael Gove has confirmed.
But the cabinet office minister played down the idea of a region by region easing of the measures, designed to save lives by protecting the capability of the NHS.
Different rules in different parts of the UK would risk confusion in the fight against coronavirus and potentially lead to the disease spreading, he suggested.
Ministers believe new technology to track and trace Covid-19 cases should be tested on islands, where the number of cases are already low and visitors can be more easily monitored.
Mr Gove told MPs on the Commons public administration and constitutional affairs committee there was “specific scientific justification” showing island communities could pilot contact tracing.
At the same time restrictions would be lifted to test the success of the new tracing regime, he said.
The results would help ministers “judge what is right for the country overall”, he added.
Mr Gove also confirmed ministers were considering a sector by sector approach to lifting the lockdown.
Industries which involve outdoor working could get back to work sooner than those which require staff to be indoors, he said.
Island communities have been pushing for special dispensations, arguing they have fewer cases of the disease and are much more likely to be able to control its spread.
Many also warn of the damage the lockdown is doing to their already fragile economies.
A new NHS contact tracing app is expected to be ready for use in the next two to three weeks.
But experts have already suggested it will not initially be rolled out nationwide.
Instead, it will be tested in small geographical areas, to ensure it can successfully prevent a second peak of Covid-19 cases.
During his evidence session with MPs, Mr Gove also admitted that he read a secret report into the NHS’s inability to cope with a flu pandemic only last week.
The confidential government report sets out the lessons learnt from Exercise Cygnus, a three-day simulation carried out in 2016.
Mr Gove, who attends the daily coronavirus “war cabinet”, said he had read recommendations prompted by the report before last week.