Boris Johnson will impose a national lockdown on England on Thursday to save the NHS from the second wave of coronavirus advancing through the country.
Announcing the new lockdown which will last until at least December 2, Johnson said: “We must act now to contain this autumn surge”.
The prime minister was warned the health service will be overwhelmed within five weeks unless tighter restrictions are put in place nationwide.
Scientific modelling predicts all NHS beds – including the Nightingale hospitals – will be full by December 4 without a move into lockdown – a measure Johnson has previously called a “nuclear” option.
“No sensible prime minister can ignore the message of those figures,” said Johnson today, adding that overrunning the NHS would be a “medical and moral disaster” witnessing doctors and nurses essentially having to choose “who would live and who would die.”
‘Stay at home’
Johnson announced the return of the “stay at home” with exemptions for education, medical appointments, shopping for essential items, travel to work or to care for a vulnerable person and anyone needing to escape injury or harm. If you can work from home, do so is the message. Those previously advised to “shield” have not been told to do so this time.
The furlough scheme – which was due to expire today (October 31) – will be extended for the duration of the new measures with the government paying 80% of wages. However, the shielding guidance has not been reinstated and Johnson told over 60s and people with underlying conditions to be especially careful and socially distant.
Schools, colleges, universities and childcare centres will stay open but non-essential shops and hospitality will close. People will be able to exercise outside with members of their household or one person from another household.
Takeaways and fast food deliveries will continue to operate but many will have to be closed at a highly critical time of the year for the high street and hospitality.
“I’m under no illusions about how difficult this will be for businesses which have already had to endure such hardship this year and I’m truly, truly sorry for that,” said Johnson.
‘Sincere hope and belief’ – Johnson
It is another u-turn from the government whose leadership will be further questioned and damaged given ministers were resolutely and repeatedly ruling out a national lockdown as recently as yesterday.
“No one wants to be imposing these kind of measures,” Johnson explained during his statement. “But we have got to be humble in the face of nature. Now is the time to take action, as there is no other choice.”
With the four week English lockdown set to last until “at least” December 2, speculation is focusing on the festive season ahead, with the prime minister saying: “Christmas is going to be different this year, perhaps very different. but it’s my sincere hope and belief that by taking tough action now we can allow families across the country to be together.”