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Coronavirus: Prime Minister confirms second national lockdown from Thursday - but Cambridge MP says he acted too slowly

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The Prime Minister has ordered a second national lockdown for England, warning the NHS will be overwhelmed within weeks without it.

Pubs, bars, restaurants and non-essential retail across the nation will close from Thursday November 5, and people will be told to stay at home unless they have a specific reason to leave, but schools, colleges and nurseries will remain open.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the press conference (42934974)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the press conference (42934974)

People will be allowed outside to exercise and socialise in public spaces outside with their household or one other person, but not indoors or in private gardens, and will be able to travel to work if they cannot work from home.

Furlough payments at 80 per cent will be extended for the duration of the restrictions as high streets once again shut up shop.

Hairdressers and beauty salons will close, but takeaways and click and collect services will be allowed to continue.

Boris Johnson said without such action deaths would reach “several thousand a day”, with a “peak of mortality” worse than the country saw during the lockdown in April.

But Cambridge’s Labour MP Daniel Zeichner said the Prime Minister should have acted much quicker, following calls for a circuit breaker from scientific advisers five weeks ago.

MPs will vote on Wednesday on the new measures. Assuming they are passed as expected, they will start from 12.01am on Thursday, and run until December 2, when the current tier system will be reintroduced.

The hope is that Covid-19 cases will drop low enough to keep on top of outbreaks at a regional level, and enable families to meet at Christmas.

In a Downing Street press conference, Mr Johnson said “no responsible Prime Minister can ignore” the rising rates of Covid-19 infections as he announced the lockdown.

He said: “We need to be humble in the face of nature.”

Daily confirmed cases of coronavirus. Graphic: PA (42934972)
Daily confirmed cases of coronavirus. Graphic: PA (42934972)

The PM added that the virus was spreading even faster than the worst case scenario envisaged by scientists.

He said new rapid self-tests would be rolled out at scale in the coming weeks to bolster the testing efforts, with the Army brought in to aid the logistical effort.

Pressure has been mounting on Mr Johnson for several weeks, although he is understood to have been persuaded by new data on NHS capacity and figures released on Friday from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), suggesting 580,000 people a week are now contracting the virus.

Rates of coronavirus have been increasing in all parts of England and among all age groups and government scientific advisers have said only a national lockdown could get on top of the epidemic.

Mr Johnson was joined by England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.

Prof Whitty said inpatient beds was going up “on an exponential curve” and several hospitals already have more people in beds than at the peak earlier in the year.

Sir Patrick said what was clear from modelling in terms of deaths over the winter “there is potential for this to be twice as bad or more compared to the first wave.”

In terms of hospital admissions across England, over the next six weeks into early December, they would exceed the number of hospitalisations seen during the peak of the first wave, he said.

He added that it was a “very grim picture” of what would happen without further action.

Responding to the PM’s announcement, Mr Zeichner said: “The Prime Minister could have acted when Keir Starmer and the scientists first called for a circuit breaker. But they bottled it - and now we have a much harder lockdown. This incompetent government couldn’t even get the news out in a timely and straight forward manner - drip feeding it to the press rather than levelling with the British people.

“Now we need detail and clarity. My inbox is already filling up with worried workers scared they won’t cope on the furlough-lite scheme and city businesses predicting their downfall.

“Of course we need to stay at home to protect our NHS and save lives but I have lost all patience with this government. This second wave was predictable and they could have done so much better than this.”

In Cambridge, there was a 47 per cent rise in cases in the week of October 19-25 compared to the previous week.

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