A few hours later, the chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, and the chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, came to Mr Johnson with what appeared to be a solution.

Warning that the number of deaths would rise significantly by the end of October without further interventions, they proposed a time-limited “circuit break” – essentially curfews and targeted restrictions on activities.

The measures could include asking pubs and restaurants to close for a two-week period or to observe limited opening hours. Crucially, it is understood the plan would see schools and workplaces kept open.

Modellers on the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) believed the package could prevent a return of exponential growth of Covid-19 without kicking the knees out from the economy.

The experts proposed implementing the partial lockdown during the October school half-term, at the end of the month, in order to minimise the indirect impact on education.

Already that day, ministers had signed off new localised restrictions across much of the North East (see people giving their reactions to the measures in the video below), with Newcastle, Gateshead, Sunderland, Northumberland, South Tyneside, North Tyneside and the County Durham among those to be hit by a ban on household mixing and 10pm curfews for restaurants and pubs.

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