Covid-19: Johnson announces second lockdown for England
Non-essential shops, restaurants, pubs, leisure facilities to close for at least four weeks
A second national lockdown will be imposed across England from midnight on Thursday with all non-essential shops, restaurants, pubs and leisure facilities to close for at least four weeks, British prime minister Boris Johnson has said.
Mr Johnson dramatically escalated the country’s response to the pandemic in a press conference on Saturday evening, telling the public “the time has come for further measures” which will remain in place until December 2nd.
People have been told to “stay at home as much as possible”, but will be allowed to leave their homes for education, medical appointments and to shop for essential goods.
Outdoor exercise will also be permitted, with members of the same household or one other household.
People leaving home to care for vulnerable people, or to escape injury or harm, will be exempt from the rules. Takeaways and deliveries will continue to be allowed.
The furlough scheme, which was due to end today, will be extended throughout November, said the prime minister.
Under the new regulations, which will be published in full on Tuesday and voted on by MPs on Wednesday, households will be banned from mixing indoors, with the exception of for childcare and other forms of support.
Support bubbles will remain in place and children will still be able to move between homes if their parents are separated.
Unlike the first national lockdown introduced in March, schools, colleges and universities will remain open, as will childcare and early-years care.
People who can work from home will be asked to do so, but those working in manufacturing and construction will be encouraged to continue going to work.
Mr Johnson also announced a ban on overnight stays and outbound international travel, unless the trips are for work, while places of worship will be open for private prayer but not for services.
Despite the imposition of stricter new measures, shielding guidance will not be reinstated.
However, Mr Johnson said those over 70, or who have health conditions which make them more vulnerable to the virus, should be especially careful and minimise their contact with others.
He said it is vital to keep non-coronavirus healthcare operating, and insisted that people should continue to attend appointments and use NHS services.
Mr Johnson did not give any firm commitment on when the restrictions would end, but said the exit strategy from the regulations would vary according to the severity of the virus transmission rates in different areas of England.
Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, described the restrictions as “a devastating blow” to business communities. Market confidence has been “hit hard by the unclear, stop-start approach” taken by governments across the UK during the pandemic, he said.
He added: “Many firms are in a much weaker position now than at the start of the pandemic, making it far more challenging to survive extended closures or demand restrictions.”
He called for government support for businesses facing hardship, whether through loss of demand or closure, to be boosted.
He said: “The government must not squander the time afforded to them through another lockdown to enable mass testing and fix test and trace systems – which hold the key to a lasting exit strategy for both public health and the economy.”