UK set to enter 2nd lockdown

The UK is going to enter a second national lockdown in the coming days, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced.

The decision came hours after the UK passed the grim milestone of one million coronavirus cases.

The month-long shutdown will come into effect from Thursday after a parliamentary vote early next week, Johnson said during a news conference on Saturday evening.

“We must act now to contain the autumn surge,” he said, reports CNN.

Johnson was forced to make the announcement on Saturday after the government’s plans were leaked to numerous national newspapers the previous evening. The plan had been initially to announce the measures on Monday.

The strict lockdown will see the closure of pubs, restaurants and non-essential businesses, including hair salons and gyms. Schools, universities and playgrounds will stay open.

People will only be able to leave their homes for specific reasons: education, work (if they are unable to work from home), to shop for food, for health reasons, or for exercise and recreation outdoors, either with that person’s household or with one person from another household.

The government is discouraging all non-essential travel, though people will still be able to travel abroad for work, providing they follow England’s quarantine rules upon their return. The measures will only apply to England, as healthcare is handled by the devolved governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The new shutdown will remain in place until December 2, at which point Johnson hopes the virus will be sufficiently under control to enable England to tackle the virus, once again, on a region-by-region basis.

The Prime Minister, who spent the afternoon discussing the matter with his cabinet, previously said he wanted to “avoid the misery of another lockdown,” but had not ruled it out.

He has been under pressure for weeks as the UK’s top scientists warned that a lockdown was needed in England, instead of the current localized system.

The move comes after weeks of sharply rising infections. There have now been more than 1 million confirmed cases in UK, with 21,915 new cases reported on Saturday, taking the total to 1,011,660. There were 326 new deaths, bringing the death toll to 46,555.

The Office for National Statistics now estimates that 1 in 100 people in England have Covid, an average of 568,100 people. That’s compared with 1 in 2,300 in July and 1 in 200 at the start of October.

The R number (reproduction number) is above 1 everywhere and it is growing more in areas with lower incidence rates. The decision for more severe restrictions came as Johnson’s cabinet was advised that if no action was taken, the National Health Service’s bed capacity would be surpassed by the first week of December.

Calum Semple, a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) and a consultant respiratory pediatrician, said earlier on Saturday that tighter restrictions were needed because the virus was “running riot” across the country.