UK prime minister Boris Johnson has reassured businesses that England’s second lockdown will only last four weeks, after speculation that it could be extended.
England is set to enter a second lockdown between 5 November and 2 December. Speculation has mounted in recent days that restrictions could be extended beyond early December.
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.
“Believe me, we will end these Autumn measures on 2 December when they expire,” Johnson said during a pre-recorded address to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) conference on Wednesday.
The prime minister had been scheduled to speak at the CBI conference on Monday but pulled out at the last minute. Instead, Johnson had to update parliament on the plans for a second lockdown in England, which he announced in a televised address on Saturday night.
All non-essential shops will be ordered to close from Thursday and people are being encouraged to stay at home as much as possible. Pubs and restaurants will only be allowed to offer takeaway food.
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Business groups have warned that 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.
Speaking on Wednesday, Johnson 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 posses.”
“We have to get the R down now to protect our NHS, save thousands of lives, if we’re to get on with our plan to exit this crisis,” Johnson said on Wednesday.
The prime minister hailed the support of business throughout the crisis and said the private sector would play a vital part in helping the UK “bounce back better.”
“We will do whatever it takes to back British business,” he said.
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