Johnson announces national lockdown in England as Sturgeon urges against non-essential travel

Boris Johnson has tonight announced a new national lockdown for England, coming into force from Thursday and remaining in place until 2 December. 

In an announcement reminiscent of Johnson’s initial “stay at home” announcement in March, the new measures include the closing of non-essential retail and hospitality, a ban on mixing with other households indoors, and travel restrictions. 

Schools, universities, nurseries and essential shops will remain open. The construction industry, the court system, and parliament will also remain open.  

It comes as Nicola Sturgeon asks people not to travel to or from England except for “essential purposes”. 

Responding to speculation before Johnson announced the lockdown, Sturgeon added that there were early signs that existing restrictions in Scotland were having an effect and that she would base any future decisions on Scottish measures on the circumstances in Scotland. 

Defending his regional tiered approach, Johnson said that the virus was spreading faster than the reasonable worst-case scenario had predicted several weeks ago. 

He said that no “responsible” leader would ignore this. He added that the Furlough scheme would be extended through November in order to support businesses that are ordered to shut, and workers unable to work would be furloughed from the beginning of the lockdown on Wednesday until 2 December. 

Addressing what will happen at the end of the new lockdown, Johnson said that a massive expansion in the deployment of quick turnaround Covid-19 tests would allow the country to move out of the new tougher restrictions. 

The new tougher measures will be put to a vote in parliament on Wednesday and then come into force nationally on Thursday. 

Attending the press conference with the Prime Minister, Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, said that Covid-19 infections were rising significantly across the entire country with the Office for National Statistics estimating around 50,000 new cases per day. 

Sir Patrick Vallance, the Chief Scientific Advisor for England, added that projections show that if nothing is done, there could be roughly 800 deaths per day for the next six weeks. 

He predicted that NHS bed space – including extra capacity – could be overwhelmed by December. 

Speaking to The Student, Felix Rackow, a third-year student from London, said “As a student from England, I’m mainly worried about being able to travel home for Christmas.

“I think the lockdown adds another element of complexity and anxiety to that – if students in England are already in lockdown, I fear that students returning to England from Scotland might be forgotten.” 

He added: “In some ways it is reassuring to be here in Scotland, particularly as the central [England] government’s response to the second wave has been at best shambolic. 

“I think it’s frustrating for my family at home to be thrown into a second lockdown now, especially as a circuit breaker lockdown to coincide with the school holidays was recommended several weeks ago.” 

Today’s announcement was brought forward from Monday by the government after their lockdown plans were leaked to The Times and the Daily Mail overnight. 

The Prime Minister met with Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office Minister, and Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, yesterday to discuss “alarming” new NHS data that showed the virus running out of control across the country. 

The Cabinet was briefed about the new measures this afternoon shortly before the announcement. The decision comes only three months after Johnson was quoted in The Telegraph in July as saying that the nation would not need another lockdown. 

The decision today also follows advice from scientific advisors to implement a “circuit-breaker” lockdown to coincide with the school half-term holidays, which Johnson did not adhere to. 

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