Boris Johnson has announced a full four-week national lockdown, with everyone asked to stay at home whenever possible.
The “circuit-breaker” national lockdown begins on Thursday November 5 and continues until Wednesday December 2. But schools will remain open.
The furlough scheme, with employees who cannot work paid 80% of their usual wages, will be extended for the duration of this national lockdown.
The Prime Minister, who will also make a statement in Parliament on Monday, held a Downing Street press conference where he explained tough national measures were needed to stop the NHS being overwhelmed.
And the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, said the number of people who die in the current second wave of coronavirus could be twice as high as it was in the first wave.
Mr Johnson said: “No responsible Prime Minister can ignore the message of those figures.”
He added: “Unless we act, we could see deaths in this country running at several thousand a day.”
Here are the new national lockdown rules
While the new national lockdown is in effect, you may only leave your home for specific reasons including:
- Work if you cannot work at home
- Exercise or recreation – either with your household or with one person from another household
- Medical reasons and appointments
- To escape injury and harm (this is designed to safeguard people experiencing domestic abuse or similar issues at home)
- Shopping for food and essentials
- To provide care for vulnerable people or as a volunteer
The Government is urging businesses to keep workplaces open if staff cannot work from home, and for employees to continue going to work. That doesn’t just include “key workers” – it includes anyone who can’t work from home. There is NO ban on using public transport to get to work.
Non essential shops, leisure and entertainment venues will all be closed, although online shopping will still be allowed.
Pubs, bars and restaurants must close except for takeaway and delivery services
Support bubbles will remain. This means that a person living along can form a “bubble” with another household, so that they are effectively treated as just one household.
Children are able to move between households if their parents are separated.
People aged over 70 or with underlying medical conditions are urged to be “especially careful” to follow the rules and minimise contact with other people. But those with medical conditions are NOT being asked to “shield” as they were during the last local lockdown, when they were urged to avoid almost any contact with other people.
Schools, colleges and universities remain open, as will childcare and nursery facilities.
The NHS will continue to provide non-Covid healthcare. Some people may feel they should put off seeing their doctor in order to help the NHS, but the Government is encouraging them to seek NHS healthcare as usual.
Why the new lockdown is nationwide
The package of tougher national measures was agreed at a meeting of the Cabinet earlier today.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has spoken to the Labour Keir Starmer. He has also spoken to Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, and will make a statement to Parliament on Monday.
Cabinet was also told that the virus is spreading across the whole country. While cases have been highest in the North West in recent months, the Cabinet was told infection rates would be just as high in the South West by November 27 if tough national measures are not taken.
The virus is currently spreading fastest in the East and West Midlands, the Cabinet was told.
MPs in the House of Commons will hold a debate and vote in the national lockdown. They will only go ahead if they are approved by Parliament, and MPs could potentially block the government’s plans, but this seems unlikely to happen.
How the new national lockdown will end
It is due to end on Wednesday 2 December, although it is understood that the Government plans to ease the new restrictions on a local and regional basis according to the trends and data at the time – which suggests the tough rules could potentially continue in some parts of the country for long.
Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, told the Downing Street press conference that the existing local lockdown measures had reduced the rate of growth of coronavirus, but said: “It’s still growing.”
He said: “In terms of deaths … there is the potential for this to be twice as bad or more compared to the first wave.”
Across the UK, one in 100 people currently have the virus. And the Government says that the way things are going, every NHS bed will be full by the first week in December – even including beds in the dedicated Nightingale hospitals, and even after all elective (non-essential) surgery is cancelled.
What does this mean for Birmingham and the West Midlands?
Birmingham and the rest of the West Midlands Combined Authority area currently classed as Covid Alert Level High, which means we have tier two level local lockdown restrictions in place.
These include a ban on people from different households mixing in any indoor venue, including private homes, pubs and restaurants.
Birmingham City Council leader Ian Ward had said it was “inevitable” that the city, and probably other parts of the region too, would have to move into tier three, which means many venues are closed entirely.
However, it’s unclear what today’s announcement means for the future of the three-tier local lockdown system.
Coun Ward called on Friday for a full, four-week lockdown across England, and warned that local lockdowns were not working.
He argued that doing this would make it possible to ease restrictions before Christmas, whereas delays would lead to avoidable deaths and prolonged economic misery.
Coun Ward said: “I am of the opinion that England needs to follow France, Germany and Wales into a national circuit breaker as quickly as possible.”