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Saturday, 31 October 2020

PM Announces Second Lockdown To Avoid 'Medical And Moral Disaster': Non-Essential Shops Will Shut And Travel Is Banned Under Restrictions That Start On THURSDAY And Run For A Month with furlough scheme EXTENDED



After weeks insisting he is sticking to local restrictions, Boris Johnson completed a humiliating U-turn by announcing blanket coronavirus restrictions for England at a prime-time press conference alongside medical and science chiefs Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance. The PM said the draconian measures - which come into force from midnight Thursday morning - were the only way to avert bleak Sage predictions of 85,000 deaths this winter, far above the previous 'reasonable worst case', and the NHS being swamped before Christmas. Another 326 UK fatalities were declared today - nearly double last Saturday's tally. 

But infections, which can represent the current situation more accurately, were down five per cent on a week ago at 21,915 in a possible sign that the rise could already be slowing. The brutal squeeze - billed as 'Tier Four' on the government's sliding scale - will see non-essential shops in England shut until December 2, as well as bars and restaurants despite the 'absolutely devastating' impact on the already crippled hospitality sector. Households will be banned from mixing indoors during the period, and people will be told not to leave home and travel unless for unavoidable reasons, such as work that cannot be performed remotely, or to take exercise. However, unlike the March lockdown schools and universities are expected to remain open - despite unions warning, they are key to the spread.

Reviving the government mantra from the height of lockdown, Mr Johnson urged the public: 'Stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.'  

But he tried to send a slightly more optimistic message, saying he hoped that the severity of the squeeze meant families would have a chance of being together at Christmas. 'I am confident we will feel very different and better by the spring,' he added.

In his latest grim assessment, Sir Patrick suggested the NHS would be overwhelmed by mid-December, even with surge capacity and the postponement of elective procedures. He said there was the 'potential' for deaths to be 'twice as bad or more compared to the first wave'.

Prof Whitty said: 'The progress is steady and we now have several hospitals with more patients.. than they had at the peak in the spring.'  

The brutal squeeze - billed as 'Tier Four' on the government's sliding scale - will see non-essential shops in England shut, as well as bars and restaurants despite the 'absolutely devastating' impact on the already crippled hospitality sector. 

Households will be banned from mixing indoors during the period, and people will be told not to leave home and travel abroad unless for unavoidable reasons, such as work that cannot be performed remotely, or to take exercise. 

However, unlike the March lockdown schools and universities will remain open - despite unions warning they are key to the spread. 

When the rules lapse at the beginning of December the Tiers system will be reapplied, raising questions about what metric will be used to judge whether an area can have restrictions loosened.  

West Yorkshire will not enter the highest Tier 3 restrictions on Monday as planned because of the new England lockdown, the West Yorkshire Combined Authority said.

The hospitality industry warned it faces disaster and millions of job losses following the news of the crackdown, even though the government has pledged to pump in more money. 

Mr Johnson previously slapped down demands for a 'circuit-breaker' - a form of which has already been implemented in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland - instead extolling the virtues of his 'tiered' system of local measures. 

But he sounded defiant tonight, dismissing accusations from Labour's Sir Keir Starmer that his delay had cost lives and saying the policy had been 'right' before. 'It is true the course of the pandemic has changed,' Mr Johnson said.  

Nicola Sturgeon made clear this afternoon that she does not intend to shift her policy based on the new arrangements for England. She said: 'We will base decisions on circumstances here - though what happens just across our border is clearly not irrelevant to our considerations.' 

Another 326 UK fatalities were declared today - nearly double last Saturday's tally. But infections, which can represent the current situation more accurately, were down five per cent on a week ago at 21,915 in a possible sign that the rise could already be slowing. 

Hawkish Conservative backbenchers are threatening to revolt in Parliament when the measures come to a vote on Wednesday - the first time curbs have come before MPs in advance of being introduced.   

As England braces for a second national lockdown: 

  • The government said a further 326 people have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19. Some more 21,915 lab-confirmed cases have been recorded; 
  • The National Education Union called for schools and colleges to be shut as part of the lockdown as they play a key role in spreading the virus; 
  • Health Minister Nadine Dorries claimed that the government could only have predicted the need for a second national lockdown with a 'crystal ball'; 
  • A SAGE scientist warned Covid is 'running riot' across all age groups and hospitals are treating four times as many women aged 20-40; 
  • The number of virus patients in hospital has doubled in the past fortnight, with 10,708 patients being treated by the NHS. 
  • The ONS said 50,000 people were becoming infected with coronavirus each day, with a further 274 fatalities reported yesterday; 
  • A poll by anti-lockdown group Recovery found that more than 70 per cent of people were more worried about the effect of lockdown than they were of catching Covid. 

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