What is a circuit-breaker lockdown and how might it affect our lives?

161020 Lockdown Wales

It looks ever more likely that a circuit-breaker lockdown will be announced in Wales within the coming days.

We know the Welsh Government is “actively” considering it as an option to try and get Covid-19 transmissions under control and the First Minister has said “detailed work” is going on behind the scenes.

The Welsh Government has not yet come to a final decision, and will discuss the possibility over the weekend before making an announcement on Monday.

SAGE recommended a circuit-breaker as an option more than three weeks ago. They’ve warned current restrictions do not go far enough, and only universal measures have any chance of curbing the second wave of the virus.

But what will this mean for our daily lives, how long could a circuit-breaker lockdown last, and is there proof it will work?

What is a circuit-breaker lockdown?

An actual circuit-breaker is an automatic switch installed in an electrical circuit that flips and breaks the flow of electricity when there is a power surge or short-circuit, preventing fire and other damage.

Merthyr Tydfil was one of the first parts of Wales to go into local lockdown. Credit: Merthyr Tydfil was one of the first parts of Wales to go into local lockdown.

A circuit-breaker lockdown would therefore see us cut almost all contact with people outside their own household by shutting non-essential businesses and cutting social interactions.

It would look similar to the initial lockdown announced back in March but for a shorter period of time.

How long could it last?

A circuit-breaker, if imposed in Wales, would probably last anything from two, three or even four weeks.

The latest suggestion from the First Minister is the Welsh Government are considering a two or three week option.

The idea is to interrupt the flow of the virus and allow time for a longer term plan to be put in place, before cases overload the NHS

Pubs, like this one in Merthyr Tydfil, could be forced to close temporarily in the event of a circuit-breaker lockdown. Credit: PA

When is a circuit breaker likely to be imposed?

Mark Drakeford said on Friday the Welsh Government is looking "very carefully" at introducing a circuit-breaker lockdown with an announcement expected on Monday.

The Welsh Government is talking about “a ‘fire break’ set of measures to control Covid-19" and say it would be a "short, sharp shock to the virus",

Mr Drakeford has also called on the UK Government to consider adopting the short-term lockdown in England.

But The short answer is there could be an announcement on this any day now but ITV Wales understands the decision will be made over the weekend.

The Welsh Government’s official position is that “no decisions have been made” and that they are still considering advice from SAGE and the TAC Group.

Has the circuit-breaker worked anywhere else?

Other countries have tried the circuit-breaker approach with differing levels of success.

Israel is expected to emerge from a national lockdown this week - initially imposed to cover the Jewish new year celebrations - after a traffic-light system similar to England's tiers plan failed to get infection rates under control.

The Israeli government said there are some "preliminary signs of success", although infection rates continue to rise.

The most recent figures show 3,538 new cases on October 12.

New Zealand's month-long lockdown imposed on March 26 rapidly brought cases under control and the country has been praised for the efficacy of its response.

On April 18, New Zealand recorded 13 new cases but did not have another day in double digits until August 12, and so far has recorded just 25 Covid-19 deaths.

Scientists warn success depends on the public's willingness to adhere to any new rules.

Who has gone for the circuit-break option in the UK?

Northern Ireland is the first - and at this point the only - devolved administration to agree to a new national lockdown, with most measures coming into force on Friday.

Northern Ireland will be the first part of the UK to introduce a circuit-breaker. Credit: PA

Pubs and restaurants will close for four weeks, with the exception of takeaways and deliveries, while schools will close on Monday for two weeks.

It stops short of the full lockdown imposed in March, but they are the toughest measures to be introduced in any of the UK's four countries so far.