For the third time since March, England will enter a nationwide lockdown.
New year, same old story, isn’t it? Despite the pages of the calendar flipping over to 2021, we’re getting in a throwback to 2020 quite quickly, with the news that England will enter a new national lockdown tonight (Monday, January 4). As rising coronavirus cases and two mutant variations of the virus continue to spread across England – despite the implementation of Tier 3 & 4 measures across the country – the government has now taken the decision to begin a third nationwide lockdown.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in a televised address to residents tonight, revealed that “it’s clear that we need to do more together to bring this new variant [of coronavirus] under control”, which he said “is between 50% and 70% more transmissable” than the original strain. The lockdown will begin tonight, although it won’t be enshrined into law until Wednesday, when Parliament will vote on the measures (they are widely expected to pass). The lockdown is expected to last until February 15 at least – as with previous lockdowns, the measures will be reviewed regularly by Parliament, and will be relaxed or extended as necessary.
The lockdown measures are similar to those we saw in March – here’s what that means for residents of England:
- Stay home. We’ll only be allowed to leave the house for limited reasons, including work, food and other essential shopping trips, exercise, escaping domestic abuse, and medical appointments.
- Work from home where possible. In cases where your job cannot be done from home, you are allowed to head into your workplace.
- Non-essential shops must close.
- You’ll be allowed to exercise, but shouldn’t be doing so more than once per day.
- Do not meet people from other households, unless they are part of your social bubble. You will be allowed to meet one person from outside your household for exercise, but it must be local and limited to once a day.
- The clinically vulnerable should begin shielding again (the government will issue guidance on this in the coming days).
- Primary schools, secondary schools, and colleges must move to remote learning from tomorrow (January 5) – except for vulnerable children, and the children of key workers.
- We must stay two metres apart from other people.
The decision has been taken in the face of scary recent developments, including seven consecutive days of more than 50,000 new cases in the UK (including today’s 58,700 cases, the highest single-day increase yet), and rates of Covid-19 hospitalisations that top even those seen in the early days of the spring lockdown. Faced with a dire picture – and even with a pair of coronavirus vaccines being rolled out across the UK – the government has been left with no choice but opt for another lockdown.
The move had been mooted in Parliament already, as Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called for a new national lockdown yesterday, and was joined by some Tory MPs – amongst them former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who outlined on Twitter the reasons he felt a new lockdown was necessary. In announcing the PM’s televised address earlier, a spokesperson said that “further steps must now be taken to arrest this rise [in cases] and to protect the NHS and save lives.” Meanwhile, the UK’s Covid threat level has been increased to Level 5, the highest alert level, and one which indicates that the NHS could be overwhelmed in three weeks unless measures are tightened.
Lockdown is a measure that’s already been implemented in the three other devolved nations; Wales and Northern Ireland went back into lockdown on Boxing Day, and Scotland will go back into lockdown tonight. Hope is of course on the horizon as vaccinations with both the Pfizer and Oxford jabs continue this week (just this morning, the first Oxford vaccine was given to 82-year-old Brian Pinker), and the NHS eventually plans to vaccinate two million people a week. However, with vaccinations only just beginning to ramp up, further restrictions have sadly become necessary in the interim.