England prepares for second national lockdown lasting until December

31 October 2020, 19:07 | Updated: 1 November 2020, 09:37

By Ewan Somerville

Boris Johnson has ordered England into a second national lockdown for a month starting next week, telling people to stay at home and forcing pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops to close.

The Prime Minister warned coronavirus risked overwhelming the NHS without further action, after his scientific advisers warned the disease was surging in all age groups across the country.

“You must stay at home," the PM said during a No 10 press briefing. "Now is the time to take action because there is no alternative."

From 00.01 on Thursday until 2 December, all pubs and restaurants must close but takeaway and deliveries can continue. All non-essential retail will shut but supermarkets can stay open.

Boris Johnson said the new restrictions would last a month
Boris Johnson said the new restrictions would last a month. Picture: PA

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Schools, colleges and universities as well as courts and parliament will remain open.

People are advised not to travel unless for essential reasons or for work. Brits abroad will be allowed to return to the UK.

The PM announced the new restrictions in a Downing Street briefing on Saturday evening alongside Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, and Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser.

They are the toughest measures seen since the spring lockdown and will be put to a Commons vote next week.

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Sir Patrick Vallance said “most likely… 50,000 plus” people per day were catching the virus in the UK and around 500,000 people have it currently, the latest data shows. 

On the death toll, he added that projections suggest “there is the potential for this to be twice as bad or more compared to the first wave”.

Mr Johnson said: “Unless we act, we could see death running in this country running at several thousand a day.”

He added: “The general threat to public health comes not from focusing too much on covid, but from not focusing enough - from failing to get it under control… The risk is that for the first time in our lives, the NHS will not be there for us and our families.”

It comes after scientists warned deaths from Covid-19 are feared to exceed "reasonable worst case planning levels" in the coming weeks, with more than 85,000 people expected to lose their lives to the virus by April.

However, others have raised concerns about the collateral damage another lockdown could bring for the economy, mental health, and cancelled operations and diagnoses.

Households will be banned from mixing in homes, except for childcare or other care reasons. Exercise will be allowed outdoors and manufacturing and construction industries, along with others unable to operate from home, can continue.

Overnight stays and holidays away from primary residences will not be allowed - including holidays in the UK and abroad. This includes staying in a second home, or staying with anyone you do not live with or are in a support bubble with. There are specific exceptions, for example if you need to stay away from home for work purposes.

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Those classed as clinically extremely vulnerable will be urged to minimise contact with others, but shielding will not be reintroduced, Mr Johnson said.

After the four-week lockdown ends, England will revert to the three-tier system already in place, Mr Johnson said.

The new measures come after new data showed the extent of cases across England. The Office for National Statistics estimated that 568,100 people in households were infected with coronavirus in the week ending October 23.

Members of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) have backed the introduction of more stringent measures.

Mr Johnson said: "Christmas is going to be different this year, perhaps very different, but it's my sincere hope and belief that by taking tough action now we can allow families across the country to be together."

He added that "no responsible Prime Minister can ignore" the latest statistics and that hospitals in the South West were due to run out of beds in weeks.

The PM described the pandemic as “a constant struggle and a balance that any Government has to make between lives and livelihoods, and obviously lives must come first”.

But he told the press conference: “We have to be mindful the whole time of the scarring the long term economic impact of the measures we’re obliged to introduce.”

Furlough payments at 80% will be extended for the duration of the restrictions as high streets once again shut up shop.

Sir Keir Starmer said it was unfair to pretend to the public that Christmas “will be normal”.The Labour leader told reporters: “I don’t think Christmas will be normal and I think we need to level with the public on that.

“This lockdown is going on to at least December 2, everybody’s seen the figures, and, therefore, I don’t think it’s fair to pretend that Christmas is going to be normal in any sense of the word.”

The measures in full lasting from Thursday until December 2:

- Stay at home unless for education, for work if you cannot work from home, for exercise, for medical reasons, to shop for food and essentials, to care for others

- Non-essential shops, leisure and entertainment venues will all be closed. Click and collect can continue and essential shops such as supermarkets will remain open. Bars, pubs and restaurants must stay closed except for delivery or take-away services. Hairdressers and beauty salons will close.

- Schools, colleges and universities will all remain open. Childminders and nurseries will stay open and childcare bubbles, where for example a grandparent provides childcare while a parent works, will be able to continue. After-school clubs and sports clubs will be suspended.

- People are advised not to travel unless for essential reasons. People can travel for work. Anyone on holiday will be allowed to return to the UK.