Police chief slams ‘deeply unhelpful’ leak of second lockdown amid fears of confusion over new rules

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The chairman of the Police Federation has slammed a ‘deeply unhelpful’ leak of the Government’s plan for a second lockdown which forced Prime Minister Boris Johnson to announce the new measure on Saturday, days earlier than planned.

John Apter said the leak ‘created a media frenzy, concern and speculation’ at a time when it was important to have ‘no blurred lines or confusion around rules’.

Such confusion made effectively policing the new restrictions more difficult, Apter said in a statement on Saturday, adding that it came at a time when officers are ‘already under enough pressure’. 

‘My colleagues have been doing their best to police restrictions which have changed on a regular basis and have often been confusing…

‘We must be clear in what we are asking of the public and what we are expecting of the police. The information from Government must be clear and unambiguous. Anything less makes the policing of this pandemic even more challenging than it is already.

Police officers detain Halloween revellers in Newcastle on Saturday night as Police Federation Chairman John Apter criticised a leak of the Government's lockdown plan

Police officers detain Halloween revellers in Newcastle on Saturday night as Police Federation Chairman John Apter criticised a leak of the Government’s lockdown plan

Apter said the fact that the new lockdown was reported in the media before it was officially announced by the government risked creating 'blurred lines and confusion' around new rules. Pictured: Police with Halloween revellers in Newcastle on Saturday

Apter said the fact that the new lockdown was reported in the media before it was officially announced by the government risked creating ‘blurred lines and confusion’ around new rules. Pictured: Police with Halloween revellers in Newcastle on Saturday

Confusion around new measures makes effectively policing them more challenging, Apter said in a statement on Saturday. Pictured: Police break up an altercation in Newcastle on Saturday night

Confusion around new measures makes effectively policing them more challenging, Apter said in a statement on Saturday. Pictured: Police break up an altercation in Newcastle on Saturday night

Apter said police would continue to work ‘around the clock to protect the public’ and urged the public ‘not to give up’ despite the tough new measures.

‘The majority of people have been with us all the way and must continue to do so now in order to protect each other and reduce the spread of this virus’.

Apter’s comments came as the Prime Minister plunged England into a month-long lockdown – and his party into near civil war.

Pictured: John Apter, National Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales

Pictured: John Apter, National Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales

Cabinet Ministers and Tory MPs warned that the fresh restrictions coming into force on Thursday would devastate the already fragile economy, and they expressed fury that they only learned about the drastic measures through newspaper reports.

At a hastily arranged TV press conference, the Prime Minister said that ‘by taking tough action now’ he hoped to save Christmas for families. 

Non-essential shops, pubs, gyms and restaurants will close for four weeks, but schools and universities will stay open.

Mr Johnson said the extreme approach – described within Government as ‘losing November to save December’ – was needed to avoid the ‘medical and moral disaster’ of overwhelming the NHS. 

Without such measures, he said, doctors and nurses may be forced to choose ‘between who lived and who died’.

‘We have to be humble in the face of nature,’ Mr Johnson told the nation.

However, the announcement represents another Government U-turn, away from the previous strategy of regional restrictions.

The Prime Minister was also forced to bring forward the announcement from Monday after news of the decision leaked from Friday’s meeting of the Covid ‘Quad’: Mr Johnson, Health Secretary Matt Hancock, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove. 

The leak meant most of the Cabinet learned about the lockdown from newspapers rather than from the Prime Minister.

As a furious Mr Johnson announced an immediate leak inquiry, multiple Government sources sought to pin the blame on Mr Hancock by accusing him of trying to ‘bump’ the Prime Minister into announcing the lockdown before he could have second thoughts. The Health Secretary strenuously denied the claims.

An emergency Cabinet meeting yesterday afternoon overran as ‘hawks’ opposed to the lockdown warned of the dire economic impact and demanded details of a new support package. One Cabinet Minister said they were ‘f****** furious’, adding: ‘Everything is on fire.’

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was forced to announce a new lockdown for England earlier than planned after a leak of the plan to the media. England will enter lockdown on Thursday and is expected to emerge on December 2

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was forced to announce a new lockdown for England earlier than planned after a leak of the plan to the media. England will enter lockdown on Thursday and is expected to emerge on December 2

Many Tory backbenchers were in uproar, with some even threatening to vote against the plan in the Commons on Wednesday.

Party whips warned the 2019 intake of Tory MPs from the so-called ‘Red Wall’ of traditionally Labour seats in the North of England, who have led the opposition, that they ‘could kiss their careers goodbye’ if they voted against the Government and ‘should beware of the D-word – deselection’.

Former Tory Cabinet Minister David Davis said that deciding on a second national lockdown was probably even bigger than ‘a decision to go to war’ and it was essential that MPs were given a ‘substantive vote’ on Wednesday, with the chance to amend the motion. 

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle was among those understood to be disappointed that the details were not given first to MPs.

A number of new rules will come into force in England on Thursday as part of a new lockdown

A number of new rules will come into force in England on Thursday as part of a new lockdown

Under the new restrictions, which take effect from a minute past midnight on November 5 and last until December 2:

All pubs and restaurants will close, but takeaways and deliveries will be allowed and only essential shops such as supermarkets, off-licences and newsagents will be allowed to open.

The mixing of people inside homes and gardens will be banned outside of a ‘support bubble’ while schools, universities and courts will remain open while manufacturing and construction will continue.

Domestic travel and outbound international journeys will only be allowed for work purposes and church services will be banned.

Outdoor exercise will be encouraged as gyms close and elite sport such as Premier League football will continue behind closed doors.

The new lockdown comes as the number of daily infections of coronavirus in the UK is rising

The new lockdown comes as the number of daily infections of coronavirus in the UK is rising 

The number of deaths in the UK from coronavirus has also risen, particularly in the last month

The number of deaths in the UK from coronavirus has also risen, particularly in the last month

During the press conference – which was postponed so many times that it ended up crashing into the prime-time TV programmes including Strictly Come Dancing – Mr Johnson said: ‘We will get through this, but we must act now to contain this autumn surge.’

Amid another day of Covid drama and Government chaos a further 326 UK Covid deaths were recorded – almost double last Saturday’s tally – but infections were down five per cent on a week ago at 21,915.

This newspaper established that Mr Johnson only agreed to the lockdown at the ‘Quad’ meeting after learning there could be up to 4,000 deaths a day by Christmas if no action was taken – with the NHS running out of beds and municipal ice rinks forced to become temporary mortuaries.

It was also announced on Saturday that the Treasury’s furlough scheme supporting workers will be extended until the end of November.

Ministers also promised to deploy the Army to oversee a ‘steady but massive expansion’ of quick turnaround Covid tests.

In response to the news that schools would remain open during the new lockdown, teachers’ unions sparked fury by calling for schools to be closed again.

Business leaders reacted to the new lockdown with ire. Luke Johnson, former chairman of restaurant chain Pizza Express, said: ‘This will be a catastrophe and will shatter any remaining confidence.’

James Daunt, boss of Waterstones, said that ‘everyone in retail is in a perilous situation’ and advertising tycoon Sir Martin Sorrell accused the Prime Minister of ‘chaotic and knee-jerk’ messaging.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, warned stores faced a ‘nightmare before Christmas’, causing ‘untold damage to the high street and cost countless jobs’.

Meanwhile, MPs were furious at the idea the Government had been ‘bounced’ into announcing the lockdown measures because of the leak. 

One Tory said: ‘The leak has only helped those who were pushing for a national lockdown. But whoever it is has not won themselves any favours with people on any side of the argument.’

Another said Mr Johnson was ‘under immense pressure from the Right of the party… it will get worse after a Brexit deal – the Right won’t feel they need Boris any more.’

In an attempt to appease MPs, the Prime Minister sent a WhatsApp message to his backbenchers in which he said he was ‘so sorry that you’ve had to hear about all this from the newspapers today’.

Responding to the claims that he was responsible for the leak, an ally of Mr Hancock said: ‘Such claims are not true. The Health Secretary is focused on dealing with a global pandemic and protecting lives, not briefing journalists.’

The rebels, led by Tory MP Steve Baker, yesterday demanded Mr Johnson devise a clear plan to avoid further lockdowns, including improvements to testing and protection of the most vulnerable.

A senior Tory MP added: ‘I don’t understand what we are going to get out of it. If people were not complying with the regional lockdowns, why will they comply with a national one?’ 

WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT CORONAVIRUS RESTRICTIONS ACROSS THE UK?

New lockdown restrictions announced for England on Saturday October 30 are the latest measures brought in for the UK.

Different rules are now in place in each of the four nations.

This is the picture in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

 

England

On Saturday, October 30 Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced new measures for the whole of England which are to come into force from Thursday.

Pubs, bars, restaurants and non-essential retail will close until December 2 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.

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.

 

Wales

The whole of Wales is currently under a 17-day ‘firebreak’ lockdown which started on October 23 and will last until November 9.

People can only leave their homes for limited reasons and must work from home where possible. 

Leisure, hospitality and tourism businesses are closed, along with community centres, libraries and recycling centres. Places of worship are shut other than for funerals or wedding ceremonies.

 

Scotland

The majority of Scots will be placed into Level 3 of a new five-tier system from Monday, with the rest of the country in either Levels 1 or 2.

The central belt – including Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stirling and Falkirk – will be joined by Dundee and Ayrshire in Level 3.

Aberdeenshire, Aberdeen, Fife, the Borders, Dumfries and Galloway, Argyll and Bute, Perth and Kinross and Angus will be in Level 2.

Highland, Moray, Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland have been assessed as Level 1.

Levels 1, 2 and 3 are broadly comparable to tier system currently in place in England.

Despite ministers considering putting North and South Lanarkshire into Level 4 – equivalent to a full lockdown – First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Thursday, 29 October that no area will be placed into that highest tier at the moment.

She has told Scots not to travel to England unless it is for ‘essential purposes’.

 

Northern Ireland

Pubs and restaurants were closed for four weeks starting on October 16 with the exception of takeaways and deliveries. Schools were closed for two weeks.

Retail outlets remain open, along with gyms for individual training.

People have been told they should work from home unless unable to do so, and have been urged not to take unnecessary journeys.  

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