Boris Johnson announced on Saturday evening a four-week national lockdown to be imposed on England from one second past midnight on Thursday, 5 November, ending on until 2 December.
The Prime Minister explained, “the risk is, for the first time in our lives, the NHS will not be there for us and our families” if we let the spread of Covid-19 get out of control and said there is “no alternative” to a national lockdown.
The announcement represents a major swerve in tactics from the Government’s local approach, which saw Coventry increased to Tier Two – High – Covid alert level just weeks ago.
Rising positive Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations are the predominant triggers for the second national lockdown, with official predictions that some hospital could become overwhelmed within weeks if action is not taken, though in the past seven days the number of people testing positive in Coventry is down 7.4 per cent.
Under new restrictions, all pubs, bar and restaurants will close, though takeaways and deliveries will continue to be allowed. Leisure venues, including gyms, will also be forced to close.
All non-essential retail will close, though supermarkets will not be required to limit the sale of non-essential goods, such as clothing and books, as seen in Wales.
The furlough scheme, which was due to end today, is to be extended for the duration of the national lockdown to support employees in sectors due to close – the Coventry Chamber of Commerce has praised this move, but called the closures “another blow to the regional economy.”
The ban on household mixing, currently imposed on Tier Two and Three areas, will be extended nationally, with an exception for childcare and other forms of support – but individuals not in the same household will be allowed to meet outdoors one-to-one.
Schools and universities will remain open for students, though it is expected some will move to online learning to reduce the number of children in schools.
Travel within the UK will be discouraged, except for work, and overnight stays away from homes will be allowed only for work purposes.
Outdoor exercise and recreation will be highly encouraged in public parks.
Private prayer will be allowed in place of worship, though services will be stopped.
The full regulations are expected to be published on Tuesday and will be debated and voted on in the House of Commons the following day. The vote is highly likely to pass, despite some expected rebellion from within the Conservative Party.
As the national lockdown comes to an end on 2 December, the exit strategy is expected to vary for different regions of England under the current tiered local alert system depending on the severity of the virus locally.
Adam Marshall, the Director General of British Chambers of Commerce, called the news of a second national lockdown a “devastating blow” to businesses and said it is “critically important” appropriate support is provided for employers.
The manufacturing and construction industry, especially, will be encouraged to remain operational in a Covid-secure way, but Louise Bennett, the chief executive of the Coventry Chamber of Commerce, has urged the Government to “clarify which companies can continue to operate.”
The Prime Minister said he hoped that by taking action now, families will be able to be together at Christmas.