In an October 31 press conference, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the UK would enter a second national lockdown until December 2 as Covid-19 cases pass one million.
All pubs and restaurants will be closed alongside non-essential retail, though takeaway will still be permitted. Inter-household meeting will be forbidden except in cases of childcare and other forms of support. Outbound international travel and travel inside the UK is “discouraged, except for work”. Clinically vulnerable individuals are also being asked to isolate where possible. Manufacturing and construction will be allowed to continue, with outdoor exercise and recreation “encouraged”, private prayer in places of worship permitted, and courts, schools, and universities unaffected.
These restrictions will go into effect on Thursday, November 5. The furlough system will be extended until December, with “differences compared to March”. Financial Times Chief Political Correspondant Jim Packard reports the scheme to continue at 80% wage support.
Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty opened the conference with words of caution: “Across virtually the entire country now, there is a significant rate of increase. Data from the Office National Statistics, which is the official data, shows that the prevalence of this disease has been going up, extremely rapidly over the last few weeks. We now have around 50,000 new cases a day, and that is rising.
“If we do nothing, the inevitable result will mean these numbers will go up and they will eventually exceed the peak that we saw in spring of this year. We now have several hospitals with more inpatients with Covid than we had during the peak in the spring. In terms of deaths in the winter, there’s the potential for this to be twice as bad as in the summer.”
The current Covid-19 projection used by the UK government signified that peak occupancy of NHS beds would be exceeded by November 20 were no additional action taken. PM Johnson personally thanked “the people who have been putting up with restrictions for so long”, but said “we’ve got to be humble”, urging caution alongside his colleague. Johnson continued: “Christmas will be different this year, perhaps 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”.
Plans will be set out to Parliament on Monday, where PMs will vote on new action. Jim Pickard reports that “one Tory MP says the mood is ‘volcanic’ right now among Boris Johnson’s backbenchers”.