Watch: PM promises to end lockdown measures on 2nd December
The prime minister has suggested lockdown could be extended beyond 2 December if the coronavirus reproduction rate does not come down enough.
During Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on Wednesday, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer asked Boris Johnson if the second lockdown would end “come what may or will it depend on the circumstances at the time”.
Starmer said he wanted some “basic honesty” from Johnson and the people needed to know what he planned.
The PM reiterated on several occasions the measures implemented in the second national lockdown would end in four weeks but did not rule out an extension if the Commons voted for it.
He said: “These autumn measures to combat the surge will expire automatically on 2 December.
“And we will then I hope very much be able to get this country going again.”
Starmer said it would be madness for the PM to continue with his plan to move the country into the tier system if the R rate was still rising at the time.
Johnson added: “That (end of the second lockdown) depends on all of us doing our bit now to make sure we get the R (virus reproduction rate) down.”
The R number was 1.1-1.3 last week, down from 1.2-1.4, the Government Office for Science said.
That means on average every 10 people infected will infect between 11 and 13 other people.
The R number needs to be below 1 or cases increases exponentially.
England will enter new restrictions on Thursday, which will close restaurants, pubs and non-essential shops until at least 2 December, although unlike the first lockdown in late March and April, schools will stay open for all pupils.
Johnson reassured businesses on Wednesday during a pre-recorded address to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) conference the restrictions will end in four weeks.
The PM apologised to the business community for the COVID-19 “diktats” he had been forced to impose.
He said the measures “go completely against every free-market instinct I possess”.
Firms have warned the return to lockdown will be incredibly damaging for jobs and firms.
The government has responded by reintroducing its furlough programme and extending a programme of support loans for businesses until the new year.
Cabinet minister Michael Gove said on Sunday that 2 December would be a review point for the policy and said the government would be guided by the data.
Watch: What are the fines for breaching self-isolation? Find out here
Coronavirus: what happened today