5 Unanswered Questions About The New National Coronavirus Lockdown

When will it end?

England’s new coronavirus lockdown begins on Thursday, sparking a sombre sense of deja vu across the country.

The unwelcome news was made in a hastily arranged but then repeatedly delayed press conference on Saturday evening and while Boris Johnson spoke at length, a number of questions remain unanswered...

When will it end?

Johnson said he expects the lockdown to remain in for four weeks until December 2 – but those with longer memories will recall the March measures had an expected timeframe of at least three weeks.

Speaking to Sophy Ridge on Sunday morning, Michael Gove said if the data on the spread of the virus doesn’t improve then the full national lockdown will continue.

The Cabinet Office minister said the government would be “driven by the data” when it came to making the decision.

Does that mean Christmas is cancelled?

Possibly but it’s just too early to tell. Johnson warned that Christmas could be “very different” this year, but offered a glimmer of hope that families may be able to be together after the lockdown.

He said: “It is my sincere hope and belief that by taking tough action now we can allow families across the country to be together.”

Why was the announcement such a shambles?

Multiple newspapers learned on Friday that the PM would take the drastic step of plunging England into another national lockdown, despite the announcement being planned for Monday.

No. 10 was forced to hastily arrange a press conference for Saturday after the information became public, amid outrage that newspapers should learn of the new measures through leaks or official selective briefings.

THE TIMES: National lockdown looms #TomorrowsPapersToday pic.twitter.com/mtYzZLkFt0

— Neil Henderson (@hendopolis) October 30, 2020

In a move to placate anger in his own party, Johnson sent a message to Conservative MPs on WhatsApp to apologise and warn there are “no easy short term options”.

“Folks – so sorry that you’ve had to hear about all this from the newspapers today,” he wrote in a message seen by the PA news agency.

“Let me assure you that the leak was not a no10 briefing and indeed we have launched an inquiry to catch the culprit. I had hoped to make the announcement in parliament on Monday but to avoid any further uncertainty I’ll now do a press conference from Downing Street this evening.”

What happens if you’ve already been made redundant?

One of the more positive aspects of the press conference was the PM’s announcement that the furlough scheme would be extended to cover the new lockdown period.

Johnson said the government will extend furlough payments at 80% to December and he was sorry about the hardship that businesses have already endured this year.

But the original furlough scheme was due to end yesterday meaning many businesses will have already made decisions on redundancies

Worth remembering: furlough was due to end today and firms have already made decisions accordingly. https://t.co/ZYJ3lAXizJ

— Lewis Goodall (@lewis_goodall) October 31, 2020

Why is the government paying 80% of wages after haggling with regional mayors over 67%?

The national furlough scheme was set to be replaced with the new job retention scheme at the end of October – which would mean those out of work due to the virus would be paid only 67% of their wages compared with the 80% they were afforded when the country first went into lockdown.

It was this 67% figure that regions going into the now defunct Tier 3 restrictions had been haggling over.

Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson told BBC News on Sunday: “It’s interesting as well, isn’t it, that of course yesterday evening they announced that the furlough scheme would return at 80%, something that Andy Burnham, Steve Rotheram, leaders of the north, myself included, have been calling for.

“That’s the point about contempt… that they dismissed the North’s call for the furlough scheme to be introduced in Tier 3 but now have all of a sudden found the 80% furlough scheme for a Tier 4 or national lockdown.”


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