Watch: Boris Johnson announces new national lockdown for England
England once again plunged into national lockdown
Boris Johnson in TV address: ‘The government is once again instructing you to stay at home’
PM says full lockdown needed to bring new COVID variant ‘under control’ and ease pressure on hospitals
He returns to previous mantra of ‘stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives’
School closures announced... just nine hours after Johnson insisted ‘schools are safe’
PM suggests new measures could last until mid-February at earliest, amid expectation vaccines will eventually provide escape from recurring lockdowns
Boris Johnson has imposed a third national lockdown on England.
In a televised address to the nation on Monday evening, the prime minister said surging infections meant a lockdown “tough enough” to contain the new coronavirus variant was needed.
He said: “Our hospitals are under more pressure from COVID than at any time since the start of the pandemic.
“It’s clear that we need to do more together to bring this new variant under control while our vaccines are rolled out.”
Echoing words he used when imposing the first national lockdown on 23 March last year, Johnson said: “The government is once again instructing you to stay at home.”
Under the lockdown, which Johnson suggested would last until mid-February at the earliest, people will only be allowed to leave their homes for a limited number of reasons, including shopping for essentials, going to work if they cannot work from home, exercising, seeking medical advice and providing care.
All schools, but not nurseries, must close.
Some exams will be cancelled as a result of the closures, with “alternative arrangements” being organised, Johnson said. Pupils entitled to free school meals will continue to receive them.
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Addressing how long the lockdown could last, Johnson said: “We should remain cautious about the timetable ahead.
“But if our understanding of the virus doesn’t change dramatically once again, if the rollout of the vaccine programme continues to be successful, if deaths start to fall as the vaccine takes effect, and critically if everyone plays their part by following the rules, then I hope we can steadily move out of lockdown, re-opening schools after the February half-term and starting cautiously to move regions down the tiers.”
At the end of his address, the PM repeated the government mantra used during the first lockdown, telling the nation: “Stay at home, protect the NHS, and save lives.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told the BBC: “These measures are necessary, sadly, and therefore we support the package of measures the PM has just outlined.
“Whatever our criticisms and challenges of the government, we’ve all got to pull together now to make this work over the next few weeks and months.”
Johnson’s announcement came as the picture across the country continued to darken.
The UK’s chief medical officers earlier announced the UK’s COVID alert level has been raised to five – the highest possible – meaning “transmission is high or rising exponentially”.
They warned: “Cases are rising almost everywhere... without further action there is a material risk of the NHS in several areas being overwhelmed over the next 21 days.”
More dire coronavirus figures were released on Monday, with a record 57,784 lab-confirmed infections recorded in the UK.
Figures show a 41% rise in the number of confirmed COVID-19 patients in hospital in England between 25 December and 3 January.
Johnson’s fresh lockdown came hours after Nicola Sturgeon also imposed national restrictions in Scotland.
She told the Scottish Parliament: “It is no exaggeration to say that I am more concerned about the situation we face now than I have been at any time since March last year.”
It’s just 33 days since Johnson’s second national lockdown for England ended, an indication of how quickly the new coronavirus variant – which is up to 70% more transmissible – is causing infections and hospital admissions to spike.
On Sunday, Labour leader Starmer had demanded another national lockdown, with former health secretary Jeremy Hunt adding to those calls on Monday as he said the crisis facing the NHS over the next couple of months is “off-the-scale worse” than previous winters.
A YouGov survey released shortly before Johnson’s address found 79% of Britons backed a lockdown, with 16% against toughening restrictions further.
The Oxford University and AstraZeneca vaccine began rolling out on Monday. Ministers are expecting the jab, which is easier to distribute than the other approved vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech, to provide a route out of the coronavirus crisis.
Johnson, at his Downing Street address on Monday, said this was “the one huge difference compared to last year”.
However, it could be months before sufficient numbers of vulnerable people are protected against the virus.
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