UK lockdown announced amid Tory MPs’ rows over economic impact

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Boris Johnson finally arrived at the Downing Street podium yesterday, his press conference had been delayed four times over three hours.

The Prime Minister had been forced to telescope two days of preparations for the expected Monday announcement into one afternoon following a leak to yesterday’s papers – and amid claims of chaos and infighting behind the scenes in Downing Street.

A sombre-looking Mr Johnson – performing yet another U-turn by abandoning his region-by-region approach – launched into a stark warning of the potential death rate from the virus and the prospect that the NHS would be overwhelmed.

To convey the message that the lockdown was rooted in science rather than politics, unlike at previous press conferences the Prime Minister moved almost immediately to call Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty to set out the data backing up the new lockdown.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new lockdown for England on Saturday. The measure will coming into effect on Thursday and is expected to last until December 2

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new lockdown for England on Saturday. The measure will coming into effect on Thursday and is expected to last until December 2

The lockdown was announced as infection rates in the UK continued to rise, with the country hitting more than 1 million cases on Saturday

The lockdown was announced as infection rates in the UK continued to rise, with the country hitting more than 1 million cases on Saturday

Though considerably lower than the number of infections, deaths in the UK from coronavirus have also been rising over the last month

Though considerably lower than the number of infections, deaths in the UK from coronavirus have also been rising over the last month

Declaring there was now ‘no alternative’ to a second national lockdown, Mr Johnson said: ‘Unless we act, we could see deaths running at several thousand a day and the peak of mortality bigger than we saw in April.

‘The risk is that for the first time in our lives the NHS will not be there for us and our families.’

Italy riots as America sets grim new record 

by Jonathan Bucks 

 

ITALY was hit by violent skirmishes on Friday night when demonstrators opposed to the government’s anti-Covid measures clashed with police. Molotov cocktails, bottles and rockets were hurled in Florence as politicians consider even more stringent measures. The country added a record 31,758 coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours and the daily death toll doubled to nearly 300 yesterday. Premier Giuseppe Conte has already shut restaurants, gyms, cinemas and theatres and is now considering closing schools.

AMERICA set a global record for the number of coronavirus cases recorded in a 24-hour period with more than 100,000 new infections on Friday. The daily caseload of 100,233 surpassed the 97,894 cases reported by India on a single day in September. The pandemic has killed nearly 230,000 people in the US so far, including 971 on Friday, 17 per cent higher than two weeks ago. Despite the soaring numbers, President Donald Trump claimed in a tweet: ‘Deaths way down.’

SLOVAKIA has begun a programme to screen its entire population for coronavirus in what would be a global first. About 45,000 medical workers, troops and police officers are being deployed to test the country’s 5.4 million people, collecting swabs at around 5,000 testing points. ‘The world will be watching,’ premier Igor Matovic said. Testing is not mandatory, but anyone who cannot produce a negative test certificate if stopped by police could get a heavy fine.

BRAZIL’S health minister Eduardo Pazuello was admitted to hospital on Friday, just over a week after being diagnosed with Covid-19. Pazuello, 57, is the latest in a string of senior politicians to be infected with coronavirus in Brazil, including its far-right president Jair Bolsonaro. Twelve of his ministers have now been confirmed to have contracted the illness. Brazil has suffered the second highest number of Covid-19 deaths in the world, with nearly 160,000 fatalities since the epidemic began in February.

GREECE is to be divided into a high-risk red and orange zone and a less risky yellow zone as prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis tries to stem the virus. Athens, already hard hit by an alarming rise in cases, will be included in the first with restaurants, gyms, theatres, cinemas and museums all being closed from 6am on Tuesday. Masks will be mandatory nationwide, both indoors and outside, while half of workers in both the public and private sector will be required to work from home. A nationwide curfew will also be imposed between midnight and 5am. Infections in Greece broke a fresh record on Friday, with 1,690 new cases.

IRAN will ban weddings, wakes and conferences in Tehran until further notice as the Middle East’s hardest-hit nation battles a third wave of Covid-19, police said yesterday. President Hassan Rouhani also extended the closure of beauty salons, teahouses, cinemas, libraries and gyms for a further week.

BELGIUM has imposed a partial lockdown by restricting travel, shopping and family contact. The nation is the worst affected in the EU, with 1,600 cases per 100,000 people. The government has also extended the week-long school holidays for an extra week.

AUSTRIA’S Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has said an economically damaging second lockdown would be a last resort, but Austrian media says tough measures are in the works. 

 

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Apologising to the nation ‘for disturbing your Saturday evening with more news of Covid’, he was forced to admit that ‘Christmas is going to be different this year – perhaps very different.’

But he attempted to hit a more positive note by adding: ‘It’s my sincere hope that by taking tough action now we can allow families across the country to be together.’

The Prime Minister also sought to claim that this lockdown would be ‘less primitive and less restrictive’ than the first one. But in the next sentence, he admitted: ‘I’m afraid, from Thursday, the basic message is the same – Stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.’

One of the few cheering moments was that Premier League football would continue.

The lockdown announcement came amid reports of fierce arguments behind the scenes and a virtual civil war as Ministers and senior Tory MPs warned of the lasting damage on an already weakened economy. There was also what sources called ‘cold fury’ that the lockdown plans had been leaked.

But Mr Johnson said he would make ‘absolutely no apologies’ for having pursued the now abandoned policy of imposing local and regional lockdowns.

He added: ‘We’ve got to be humble in the face of nature.

‘And in this country alas, as in much of Europe, the virus is spreading even faster than the reasonable worst-case scenario of our scientific advisers.’ He said the data outlined by Professor Whitty and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance ‘now suggest that unless we act we could see deaths in the country running at several thousand a day, a peak of mortality, alas, bigger than the one we saw in April’.

Asked to justify why he had not acted weeks ago on his scientists’ advice that a second national lockdown could be necessary, Mr Johnson pointed to the economic ‘scarring’ of such a measure.

It was ‘a constant struggle’ for any government to balance lives against livelihoods, he said. However, he insisted that it had been ‘right and rational to go for a regional approach’.

Outlining the new lockdown timetable, Mr Johnson said: ‘From Thursday until the start of December, you must stay at home, you may only leave home for specific reasons including for education, for work, let’s say if you cannot work from home.’

Other exemptions included ‘for exercise and recreation outdoors with your household or on your own with one person from another household, for medical reasons, appointments and to escape injury or harm, to shop for food and essentials and to provide care for vulnerable people or as a volunteer’.

He added: ‘I’m afraid non- essential shops, leisure and entertainment venues will be closed, though click and collect services can continue and essential shops will remain open so there’s no need to stock up.

‘Pubs, bars, restaurants must close except for takeaway and delivery services, workplaces should stay open where people can’t work from home, for example in the construction and manufacturing sectors.’

The Prime Minister said: ‘Single adult households can still form exclusive support bubbles with one other household and children will still be allowed to move between homes if their parents are separated.’

Mr Johnson stressed that the form of strict shielding for the vulnerable practised during the last lockdown would not be repeated. But he warned: ‘If you are clinically vulnerable or over the age of 60, you should be especially careful to follow the rules and minimise your contact without others.’

And just hours before the end of the furlough scheme, the Prime Minister declared that it would be extended – in modified form – until the beginning of December.

Earlier, Professor Whitty warned: ‘If we did not act now then the chances of the NHS being in extraordinary trouble in December would be very, very high. So in a sense this is trying to make sure that December is not an impossible place for the NHS, with large numbers of people infected and large numbers dying.’

But he sought to lift the gloom by saying he was ‘one of many scientists’ who were ‘much more optimistic when we look forward to the spring’ – citing ‘multiple shots on goal’ from scientific breakthroughs on vaccines and treatments.

The Prime Minister ended his announcement by repeating ‘three rays of sunshine’ from his scientific advisers – ‘the prospect of better drugs, the realistic prospect of vaccine and the hopes we are placing in rapid turn-around testing.’

Former Tory Cabinet Minister David Davis warned that the lockdown was probably bigger than ‘a decision to go to war’, and said it was essential that MPs were given a ‘substantive vote – and on an amendable motion’ on Wednesday.

In a sign of the scale of Tory unease, Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, said he would vote against the measure, adding: ‘There’s a huge danger that repeating the lockdown of earlier this year will do far more harm than good.’

There is likely to be a row with MPs over plans not to return to the ‘virtual’ Parliament of the previous lockdown. The Mail on Sunday understands that the Government will encourage MPs to attend in person where possible, telling them: ‘Schools are open and Parliament will remain open.’

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.

 

Source: PA 

 

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