Prime Minister Boris Johnson has today insisted that there is “no alternative” to a second national lockdown, but that it will be time-limited to end on 2nd December.
It comes after he confirmed a new four-week lockdown across England in an attempt to try to curb the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in a televised press conference live to the nation last Saturday evening. The restrictions – which will be voted on in Parliament on Wednesday – are expected to come into force at 00:01 GMT on Thursday 5th November.
He further detailed his plans in an address to MPs in the House of Commons this afternoon.
It was also reaffirmed that the furlough scheme will be extended for a further month and will continue to cover 80% of employees’ wages.
Mr Johnson defended the regional three tier system introduced in October following a growing number of senior Conservative backbenchers signalling their opposition to the measures due to come into effect on Thursday, and Labour stating that his failure to act sooner will have cost lives and caused further damage to the economy.
Setting out why the lockdown is now needed, Mr Johnson said to MPs: “At the end of four weeks, on Wednesday 2nd December, we will seek to ease restrictions, going back into the tiered system on a local and regional basis according to the latest data and trends.”
He continued: “Models of our scientists suggest that unless we act now, we could see deaths over the winter that are twice as bad or more compared with the first wave.”
“Faced with these latest figures, there is no alternative but to take further action at a national level.”
In response to challenges over why the government opted to implement a regional measures approach, rather than the national “circuit breaker” method recommended by scientific advisers last month, Mr Johnson argued: “I know some in the House believe we should have reached this decision earlier,
“But I believe it was right to try every possible option to get this virus under control at a local level, with strong local action and strong local leadership,”
Labour Party Leader Sir Keir Starmer said the central lesson from the first wave of virus is “if you don’t act early, the cost will be far worse, more businesses will be forced to close and tragically, more people will lose their lives” and taking aim at the government said the Prime Minister and chancellor “failed to learn this lesson and as a result, this lockdown will be longer than it needed to be”.
He said at every stage the Prime Minister has “pushed away challenge” and put what “he hoped would happen ahead of what is happening”, and when on to urge Mr Johnson to explain to the British people “why he failed to act and why he failed to listen for so long”.
Responding to Sir Keir Starmer, Boris Johnson says he “makes absolutely no apology” for trying to avoid going back into a national lockdown.
What are the new restrictions in England?
- People will be told to stay at home except for specific reasons
- These include – work which cannot be done from home, childcare or education, exercise outdoors, medical reasons, essential shopping, providing care for vulnerable people or for volunteering, and visiting members of your support bubble.
- Meeting indoors or in private gardens will not be allowed, but individuals can meet one other person from another household outside in a public place. Children under school age and those dependent on round-the-clock care who are with their parents do not count towards the two-person limit.
- Non-essential retail will close, but can remain open for click-and-collect delivery.
- Pubs, bars, restaurants will have to close, but can still provide takeaway and delivery, excluding takeaway of alcohol.
- Indoor and outdoor leisure facilities – such as gyms and swimming pools – will also close, along with entertainment venues and personal care facilities such as beauty salons.
- Places of worship will close, unless they are being used for funerals, to broadcast acts of worship, individual prayer, formal childcare, or essential services such as blood donation or food banks.
- Construction sites and manufacturing workplaces can remain open.
- Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies will not be able to take place except in exceptional circumstances, and funerals will be 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.
- Overnight stays, staying in a second home, and holidays will not be allowed – including in the UK and abroad – although there are exceptions, such as work trips.
- People will be told to avoid all non-essential travel by private or public transport.
Further information regarding which businesses are permitted to remain open can be found here.
For the latest information, guidance and support during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the UK, please do refer to official sources at gov.uk/coronavirus.