Johnson announces month-long lockdown in England to contain second wave of COVID-19
London, November 1, 2020
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Saturday that England will enter a lockdown from November 5 until December 2, during which people would be allowed to leave home only for specific reasons, to cope with a second wave of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) that is affecting Britain as well as several other countries in Europe.
"Now is the time to take action because there is no alternative," he told the media via video conference from 10, Downing Street on Saturday evening.
Johnson's statement was preceded by presentations by medical and scientific experts.
Johnson said that in Britain, as across much of Europe, the virus is spreading even faster than the reasonable worst case scenario of the government's scientific advisers.
"Whose models as you’ve just seen now suggest that unless we act we could see deaths in this country running at several thousand a day. A peak of mortality alas far bigger than the one we saw in April," he said.
"Even in the South West, where incidence was so low, and still is so low, it is now clear that current projections mean they will run out of hospital capacity in a matter of weeks unless we act," he said.
He said a failure to act now could lead to the overrunning of the National Health Service (NHS), the publicly-founded healthcare systems of the United Kingdom, which would be a "medical and moral disaster beyond the raw loss of life".
"Because the huge exponential growth in the number of patients – by no means all of them elderly, by the way – would mean that doctors and nurses would be forced to choose which patients to treat, who would get oxygen and who wouldn’t, who would live and who would die, and doctors and nurses would be forced to choose between saving covid patients and non-covid patients," he said.
"And the sheer weight of COVID demand would mean depriving tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of non-COVID patients of the care they need. It is crucial to grasp this that the general threat to public health comes not from focusing too much on COVID, but from not focusing enough, from failing to get it under control," he said.
Johnson said that even if NHS capacity could be doubled overnight it still would not be enough because the virus is doubling faster than the government could conceivably add capacity.
"From Thursday until the start of December, you must stay at home. You may only leave home for specific reasons, including:
"For education; For work, say if you cannot work from home; For exercise and recreation outdoors, with your household or on your own with one person from another household; For medical reasons, appointments and to escape injury or harm; To shop for food and essentials; And to provide care for vulnerable people, or as a volunteer," Johnson said.
He said non-essential shops, leisure and entertainment venues will all be closed – though click and collect services can continue and essential shops will remain open, and there would be no need for people to stockup.
"Pubs, bars, restaurants must close except for takeaway and delivery services.
"Workplaces should stay open where people can’t work from home – for example in the construction or manufacturing sectors.
"Single adult households can still form exclusive support bubbles with one other household, and children will still be able to move between homes if their parents are separated.
"If you are clinically vulnerable, or over the age of 60, you should be especially careful to follow the rules and minimise your contacts with others," he said.
"I know how tough shielding was, and we will not ask people to shield again in the same way again. However we are asking those who are clinically extremely vulnerable to minimise their contact with others, and not to go to work if they are unable to work from home.
"I am under no illusions about how difficult this will be for businesses which have already had to endure hardship this year. I am truly, truly sorry for that.
"This is why we are also going to extend the furlough system through November. The furlough scheme was a success in the spring. It supported people and businesses in a critical time. We will not end it. We will extend it until December.
"There will be some differences compared to March.
"These measures above all will be time-limited, starting next Thursday 5 November. They will end on Wednesday 2 December, when we will seek to ease restrictions, going back into the tiered system on a local and regional basis according to the latest data and trends.
"Christmas is going to be different this year, very different, but it is my sincere hope and belief that by taking tough action now, we can allow families across the country to be together.
"My priority, our priority, remains keeping people in education - so childcare, early years settings, schools, colleges and universities will all remain open. Our senior clinicians still advise that school is the best place for children to be.
"We cannot let this virus damage our children’s futures even more than it has already. I urge parents to continue taking their children to school and I am extremely grateful to teachers across the country for their dedication in enabling schools to remain open.
"And it is vital that we will keep provision for non-COVID healthcare groups going," he said.
"On Monday I will set out our plans to parliament. On Wednesday, parliament will debate and vote on these measures which, if passed, will as I say come into force on Thursday," he said.
"We should remember we are not alone in what we’re going through. Our friends in Belgium, France and Germany have had to take very similar action.
"So as we come together now to fight this second wave, I want to say something about the way ahead. Because people will reasonably ask when will this all end. And as I have said before I am optimistic that this will feel very different and better by the spring. It is not just that we have ever better medicine and therapies, and the realistic hope of a vaccine in the first quarter of next year. We now have the immediate prospect of using many millions of cheap, reliable and above all rapid turnaround tests. Tests that you can use yourself to tell whether or not you are infectious and get the result within ten to 15 minutes
"And we know from trial across the country in schools and hospitals that we can use these tests not just to locate infectious people but to drive down the disease. And so over the next few days and weeks, we plan a steady but massive expansion in the deployment of these quick turnaround tests. Applying them in an ever-growing number of situations.
"We will get through this – but we must act now to contain this autumn surge. We are not going back to the full-scale lockdown of March and April. It is less prohibitive and less restrictive. But from Thursday the basic message is the same. Stay at home. Protect the NHS. And save lives," he added.
The British government has previously pursued a localized approach to tackling the COVID-19 pandemic with a three-tier alert system according to local infection rates.
Earlier Saturday, official figures showed that another 21,915 people in Britain have tested positive for COVID-19, taking the total number of coronavirus cases in the country past the million-mark to 1,011,660.
The coronavirus-related deaths in Britain rose by 326 to 46,555, the data showed.