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England: Boris Johnson declares new lockdown

October 31, 2020

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has bowed to pressure from scientists to arrest soaring rates of coronavirus infections. England now faces 4 weeks of strict curbs, similar to the spring lockdown.

A man walks close to Tower Bridge wearing a mask
Image: Dominic Lipinsk/empics/picture-alliance

England will go into a new monthlong lockdown on Thursday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Saturday.

In a news conference with top government scientific advisers, he admitted that the current system of local lockdowns was no longer enough to stop the soaring coronavirus infection rate.

"From Thursday until the start of December, you must stay at home," the prime minister said.

Read more: Traveling to Germany: What you need to know about coronavirus restrictions

Johnson, who was hospitalized earlier this year for a serious case of COVID-19, added that "no responsible prime minister'' could ignore the grim figures. "Unless we act, we could see deaths in this country running at several thousand a day," he said.

Scientists have warned that the virus is spreading significantly faster in England than their most dire predictions.

Over the past 7 days, England has seen an average of 226 infections per 100,000 people.

What are England's lockdown measures?

From Thursday until December 2:

  • Restaurants, pubs and bars will close, except for takeaways and deliveries.
  • All leisure and entertainment venues and most non-essential stores will shut.
  • The public will be asked to work from home if possible and domestic travel, except for essential purposes, will be frowned upon.
  • Schools, universities and colleges will remain open, along with the construction and manufacturing sector.
  • Different households will be banned from mixing inside homes.
  • People will only be able to leave home for a few reasons including exercise.
  • Courts and Parliament will remain open.
  • Religious services will also be stopped.
  • International travel, apart from for business purposes, must also be put on hold.
  • English Premier League matches will continue to be played.

Read more: Coronavirus: Angela Merkel defends lockdown, warns of 'difficult winter' in Germany

The rules apply only to England. Wales and Northern Ireland are already effectively in lockdown and Scotland has implemented a set of tough regional restrictions.

Johnson said the government would extend its emergency coronavirus wage subsidy scheme to ensure workers who are temporarily laid off receive 80% of their pay.

The scheme, which was introduced in March, had been due to expire on Saturday to be replaced with more targeted support. It is already set to cost 52 billion pounds (€57.6 billion, $67.28 billion).

Read moreCOVID-19 antibody response drops in UK study

UK surpasses 1 million infections

Johnson had hoped a set of regional restrictions introduced earlier in October would be enough to push numbers down.

But government scientific advisers predict that on the outbreak's current trajectory, demand for hospital beds will exceed capacity by the first week of December, even if temporary NHS Nightingale hospitals set up during the first peak of the virus are reopened.

Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance warned that winter deaths in England could be twice as bad or more compared with the first wave in the spring.

The dramatic shift in strategy comes as Britain surpassed one million coronavirus cases during the global pandemic, after announcing nearly 22,000 new infections on Saturday.

Details of the lockdown were leaked to British media and Johnson's news conference was delayed several times as the announcement reportedly wasn't expected to be made until Monday.