Second England Lockdown Could Be Extended Beyond December 2, Says Michael Gove

Ned Simons
·Politics news editor, HuffPost UK
·3-min read

The four-week national lockdown in England could be extended beyond December 2, Michael Gove has confirmed.

Pubs, bars, restaurants and non-essential retail will close for a month from Thursday across the country.

People will be allowed 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.

Unlike in the lockdown during the first wave of the pandemic, schools, colleges and nurseries will remain open.

Asked in an interview with Sky News’ Ridge on Sunday if the lockdown could be extended beyond December 2, Gove said: “Yes.”

The Cabinet Office minister said the government would be “driven by the data” when it came to making the decision. “We are going to review it on December 2,” he added.

“It’s our hope, on the basis on the analysis, that we have that we will have significantly reduced the reinfection rate,” Gove said.

“We will always take the decision in the national interest, based on evidence.

“With a virus this malignant, and with its capacity to move so quickly, it would be foolish to predict with absolute certainty what will happen in four weeks’ time, when over the course of the last two weeks its rate, its infectiousness and its malignancy have grown.”

Sage member Jeremy Farrar also suggested restrictions could need to be extended, saying that while December 2 was a useful target, “I just don’t think we can become fixed on it”.

If infections, hospital admissions and deaths have not dropped sufficiently, he said: “It would be much better to extend this lockdown for another couple of weeks prior to the Christmas period – and then loosen the restrictions a little bit over Christmas so that people can meet up with their families.

“Much better to do that than remove these restrictions and then have to impose even more draconian restrictions over Christmas or soon into the new year.”

It emerged earlier in October that government scientific advisers called for a short lockdown in September. But Boris Johnson rejected the suggestion.

The British Medical Association also said it was “regrettable that warnings from Sage were not actioned as long ago as 21 September”.

Speaking at a press conference on Saturday, Johnson warned that Christmas could be “very different” this year, but tried to offer a glimmer of hope that families may be able to be together.

But Sir Mark Walport, former chief scientific adviser, told Ridge on Sunday it was “unlikely” Christmas would be normal.

“The virus, I’m afraid, is sublimely indifferent as to what day of the week it is and indeed whether it is Christmas or any other festival,” he said.

MPs will vote on the new lockdown measures in the Commons on Wednesday ahead of their introduction at 00.01 on Thursday.

Labour leader Keir Starmer said his party would vote in favour of the latest restrictions but warned of the “cost to that delay” in locking down.

Related...

Your Self-Care Toolkit For Dealing With The Tough Months Ahead

Second Lockdown: Critics Slam Government's 'Staggering Incompetence'

This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.