The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has announced the introduction of a second national lockdown to combat the spread of Covid-19 in the UK.
England will enter lockdown at 00:01 on Thursday 5 November, before returning to a “tiered system on a local and regional basis” on Wednesday 2 December.
The Prime Minister has told the public to “stay at home”, only leaving for specific reasons such as food shopping, work and education.
No mixing between households will be permitted either indoors or outdoors, but it will be possible to meet 1 person from another household to exercise outdoors.
In a Downing Street press conference that began almost 3 hours later than expected, the Prime Minister also confirmed that restaurants, pubs, hairdressers, leisure venues and non-essential shops will be ordered to close on Thursday. However, schools, colleges and universities will be allowed to stay open.
The announcement comes after coronavirus case numbers drastically exceeded SAGE’s “worst case scenario” predictions in recent weeks. Cabinet Office projections released before the announcement indicated that, without corrective action, the NHS expects to exceed its ‘surge capacity’ in the South-West and North-West of the country within weeks.
Flanked by the Chief Medical Officer for England, Professor Chris Whitty, and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, the Prime Minister said that “no one wants to impose these measures anywhere” but accepted that new measures were necessary.
In Oxford, the coronavirus infection rate per 100,000 rose to 134.5 in the week ending 23 October. The city entered Tier 2 coronavirus restrictions on Saturday morning, but the new rules will be replaced by national restrictions which will end in 8th week of Michaelmas term, 3 days before the end of term.
The rate of infection in England has been rising since national restrictions were relaxed over the summer, before accelerating in recent weeks. Professor Whitty confirmed that there has been a rise in coronavirus case numbers “in virtually every part of the country”.
The new measures will apply to the whole of England, although the First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, has previously stated that his country will still leave its shorter “circuit breaker” lockdown on 9 November. It is unknown how the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, will proceed.
The PM also announced that millions of new “turnaround tests” will take place with the support of the Army. These will give reliable results in 10 to 15 minutes and are expected to be rolled out in the following days and weeks.
The UK furlough scheme will be extended until December and will begin on 5 November, following the forced closure of non-essential shops and businesses.
The announcement of a second national lockdown follows similar decisions by France and Germany, with Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel introducing new restrictions in their countries in recent days.
Johnson told the public to “act now to contain this autumn surge” and added that it is his “sincere belief” families will be able to see each other this Christmas, but admitted that the 2020 festive period will be “very different”.
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