THE government has drawn up plans for winter 'firebreak' lockdowns, it's reported.
If the NHS risks being "tipped to the brink" restrictions during school holidays could be reintroduced, the i reports.
No. 10 is confident the vaccine rollout will stem Covid hospitalisations, but a surge in flu cases or staff shortages could put the health service under strain, it's claimed.
Downing Street confirmed it has plans in place to reimpose "local, regional or national" Covid restrictions if necessary.
A government advisor told the i: "The Government believes it has got to grips with the pandemic following the vaccine rollout.
“Barring a new vaccine-beating strain, fears over a rise in infections similar to that seen last autumn are actually outweighed by other issues like an NHS staffing crisis and the likely resurgence in flu infections, and other respiratory diseases.
"On top of Covid infections these factors could tip the NHS back to the brink and force more lockdowns.”
But the source told the i that the government is determined to avoid long lockdowns that have been in place since March, 2020.
They said: "The plan is for them to be short, and preferably during the school holidays in late October and over Christmas.
"Firebreaks rather than lasting for months at a time.”
It comes as initial lab studies showed vaccines are “less effective” against a new variant most prolific in Colombia, known as B.1.621.
Public Health England (PHE) made the warning and revealed studies showed vaccinated people infected with Delta are likely to be just as infectious as those who are unvaccinated.
The agency pleaded for people to their jabs, which are the best way to prevent infection leading to serious disease or death.
'LOCAL OR REGIONAL RESTRICTIONS'
PHE said in a statement: “There is preliminary laboratory evidence to suggest that vaccination and previous infection may be less effective at preventing infection with [B.1.621].
"However, this data is very limited and more research is required. There is no evidence to suggest that [B.1.621] is more transmissible than the dominant Delta variant.”
Experts warned last month that another autumn lockdown could be on the cards – and that some restrictions could be permanent.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) said that even if hospitalisations and deaths remain low there are major risks in letting Covid cases surge, and therefore measures may be needed.
And they warned that if a “variant of concern” hits Britain, lockdown restrictions would need to be reimposed for much longer.
Responding to the i, a spokesman for No.10 said: "As a responsible Government, we have to be prepared to respond to unexpected events as the country learns to live with Covid-19.
“As part of our strategy to manage the virus, it is both right and sensible that we maintain contingency plans for reimposing restrictions at a local, regional or national level if evidence suggests they are necessary.
“As set out in guidance, we will continue to monitor the data on a regular basis to ensure there is no danger of the NHS facing unsustainable pressure.”
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