PM: Four-week Covid lockdown enough to have 'real impact' on spread of virus

5 November 2020, 17:35 | Updated: 5 November 2020, 20:09

By Megan White

Boris Johnson has said the four-week coronavirus lockdown in England will be enough to have a "real impact" on the spread of the disease.

The Prime Minister told a No 10 news conference that while many people were "anxious, weary and fed up" the measures were strictly time-limited and there is "light at the end of the tunnel" .

England entered a second national lockdown at midnight on Thursday, designed to act as a circuit break to slow the spread of the virus and control the R rate.

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People will be told stay at home and pubs, restaurants, gyms and non-essential shops will close until December 2.

Mr Johnson said: "The advice I have received suggests that four weeks is enough for these measures to make a real impact," he said.

"These rules will expire and on December 2 we plan to move back to a tiered approach. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

"These are difficult times. While it pains me to have to ask once again once again for so many to give up so much, I know we can get through this."

His comments came as Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that the furlough scheme will be extended until March amid the second national lockdown.

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Payments will remain at 80% of people's wages, Mr Sunak confirmed in the Commons.

Mr Johnson continued to express hope that science would prove effective in tackling coronavirus.

He told a Downing Street press conference: "I think that the real progress we're getting to see is with science, and as (England's chief medical officer) Chris Whitty often says, there isn't a virus that has threatened humanity that we haven't beaten by science.

"The number of shots that are currently raining down on the goal is very, very considerable from the scientists and the doctors, and one of them, I believe, is going to get to get through, and get through very soon."

The PM said the people should be able to have "as normal as Christmas as possible" if they follow the lockdown measures.

"If we follow this package of measures in the way that we can and we have done before, I have no doubt people will be able to have as normal a Christmas as possible and that we will be able to get things open before Christmas as well," he said.

NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens told the Downing Street press conference: "This second wave of coronavirus is real and it's serious.

"The health service has been working incredibly hard to prepare and to catch up on the care that was disrupted during the first wave."

Sir Simon said: "We are doing very well, thanks to the brilliant work of GPs in expanding flu vaccine uptake this winter.

"Which is so important given that if you have flu and coronavirus at the same time you are twice as likely to die from coronavirus than you otherwise would."

Sir Simon said it will be known "conclusively" by the end of England's second national lockdown whether it had affected the increase in Covid-19 hospital admissions.

During the Downing Street press conference he was asked how confident he was that NHS capacity would be sufficiently relieved by the scheduled end of the lockdown on December 2.

"The infections that are already out there in different parts of the country last week and this week, they will be next week's hospitalisations and the week after," Sir Simon said.

But he added that looking at a period of "three or four weeks", the NHS was "hoping and expecting" that they would not see "the large further increase in hospitalisations" that infectious disease experts were saying meant there was a risk of more Covid-19 patients by the end of November than back in April.

Sir Simon added: "I think we will know conclusively whether we are seeing that changed increase in hospitalisations by the time we get to December 2."

He said: "Like you - I'm sure the Prime Minister won't mind me saying so - I have watched these press briefings and sometimes the charts can be a bit hard to keep up with, so I have just got one chart today that indisputably sets out what we in the health service are seeing.

"What it shows is the number of patients that are being looked after in hospitals across England.

"At the beginning of September that was under 500 patients. By the beginning of October that had become 2,000 coronavirus in- patients, and, now, at the beginning of November that is over 11,000.

"That's the equivalent of 22 of our hospitals across England full of coronavirus patients - those are facts, those are not projections, forecasts, speculations, those are the patients in the hospital today."