Prime Minister Boris Johnson announces month-long national lockdown for England
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a second national lockdown for the whole of England, as the UK exceeds one million COVID-19 cases.
Lockdown rules to be enforced from Thursday 5 November will include the closure of non-essential shops and hospitality for 30 days, but will aim to protect workers through the return of the Government’s furlough scheme.
Restrictions on travel are also due to come into force on Thursday, lasting until Wednesday 2 December; but unlike the strict restrictions which came into force in March and April, schools, colleges and universities will be allowed to stay open.
The UK recorded another 21,915 confirmed coronavirus cases on Saturday, bringing the total since the pandemic began to 1,011,660. Another 326 people were reported to have died within 28 days of a positive test.
COVID deaths increase
The prime minister made the announcement at a news conference in Downing Street at 7pm this evening, alongside England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty and the government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.
Beginning with slides, Chris Whitty started the conference by revealing “there is a significant rate of increase” across the country of around 50,000 new COVID-19 cases a day, and rising.
“If we do nothing,” he said, “the inevitable result will mean these numbers will go up and they will eventually exceed the peak that we saw in spring of this year.
“We now have several hospitals with more inpatients with Covid than we had during the peak in the spring.”
Chief scientific officer Sir Patrick Vallance then explained that the R rate continues to grow, with projection models showing an increase in deaths over the next six week if no action is taken.
Vallance also said peak usage of NHS beds will be exceeded on 20 November, according to the models shown.
Medical experts are highly concerned by the increase in coronavirus cases and predict hospitalisations are likely to peak mid-December, with deaths rising until the end of the year before expecting to fall from early January 2021.
Boris Johnson lead by announcing “no one wants to be imposing these kinds of measures, anywhere” but conceded that the regional approach had failed to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the country.
“Our hope was that by strong local action strong local leadership, we could get the rates of infection down, whether disease was surging and address the problem, thereby across the whole country.
“As we’ve also seen from those charts, we’ve got to be humble in the face of nature, and in this country. Alas, as across much of Europe, the virus is spreading even faster than the reasonable worst case scenario of our scientific advisors, whose models now suggests that unless we act, we could see deaths in this country running at several thousand a day, a peak of mortality, alas, bigger than the one we saw in April.”
The prime minister also warned that NHS resources would be overwhelmed if a second lockdown was not implemented.
“The virus is doubling faster, that we can conceivably add capacity,” he said.
Stay at home
Johnson announced everyone in England must stay at home from next Thursday 5 November.
“You must stay at home, you may only leave home for specific reasons, including education [and] work.
“I’m afraid non essential shops, leisure and entertainment venues will all be closed, though click and collect services will continue and essential shops will remain open.
“Pubs, bars, restaurants must close, except for takeaway and delivery services.
However, he offered some hope by revealing furlough to continue, stating its previous phase had been a huge success.
“We are going to extend the furlough system through November. We will extend further until December.”
Discussing plans after this new 30-day lockdown period, 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, wee can allow families across the country to be together.
“Although some of the measures that are in place, the rate of growth is still growing.”
“We know from trials across the country, in schools and hospitals that we can use these tests, not just to locate infections in people, but to drive down the disease.
“We’re not going back to the full scale lockdown of March and April, the measures that I’ve outlined are far less primitive and less restrictive.
“Though, I’m afraid, from Thursday, the basic message is the same: Stay at home, protect the NHS, and save lives.”
Earlier reports had suggested tier 4 restrictions could be imposed, placing half the country’s population into lockdown, but meetings between the PM, ministers and health experts decided on the need for a more stringent move.
Asked about how many further weeks the lockdown could be extended if the period up to 2 December wasn’t enough, Johnson responded: “I hope it will be but we will be driven by the science. I am optimistic.”
Johnson concluded the press conference by saying: “I just repeat those those threes rays of sunshine from the scientific and medical advisers: the prospect of ever better drugs, the realistic realistic prospect of a vaccine, and then the hopes and confidence I’m placing on rapid turnaround testing that we’re rolling out across the country.
“But in the meantime, we have to put in place these tougher measures for now until the 2nd December across the country.”
What this means for Birmingham?
Birmingham’s council leader Ian Ward had earlier this week said a move to tier three COVID-19 restrictions “would seem to be inevitable” but didn’t feel it was imminent.
Until today’s announcement from the prime minister, the majority of the West Midlands has been subject to tier two “high risk” restrictions. The national lockdown takes the region into line with the res of the country.
The latest national lockdown rules will apply equally across Birmingham and the West Midlands too.
The rate of coronavirus per 100,000 people in Birmingham stands at 270.9 as of 25 October, up from 227.6 from the seven previous days.
What are the new restrictions?
- People must stay at home except for specific reasons including work which cannot be done from home, childcare or education, exercise outdoors, medical reasons, essential shopping
- Nurseries, schools, colleges and universities will not have to close
- People may also leave their home when providing care for a vulnerable people, for volunteering, and when visiting members of their support bubble
- Meeting indoors or in private gardens is banned, but individuals can meet one other person from another household outside in a public place, such as a park
- Non-essential retail outlets will close, but can remain open for click-and-collect delivery
- Pubs, bars and restaurants must close, but can still provide takeaway and delivery (except takeaway of alcohol)
- Indoor and outdoor leisure facilities including gyms and swimming pools will close, including entertainment venues and beauty salons and spas
- Places of worship will close, except when used for funerals, online worship, individual prayer, formal childcare or vital services such as food banks or blood donation drives
- Construction sites and manufacturing workplaces can remain open
- Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies won’t be allowed except in exceptional circumstances, with funerals limited to a maximum of 30 people
- Children will still be able to move between homes if their parents are separated
- Clinically vulnerable people will be asked to be “especially careful” but people will not be asked to resume shielding
- Holidays, overnight stays and staying in a second home is not allowed (in the UK and abroad, except for essential work)
- People must avoid all non-essential travel by private or public transport