England is to go into a second national lockdown at one minute past midnight on Thursday morning, Boris Johnson has announced.
Here’s what we know:
What are the new rules?
All pubs, restaurants, hospitality venues and leisure facilities will close but nurseries, schools, colleges, universities and essential shops will stay open.
As during the shutdown March, takeaways can stay open but only for delivery services.
People should only leave their home for education, work, to shop for essential items, recreation outdoors, for medical reasons or to escape harm. When outdoors, they should only mix with people from their household or with one person from another household.
All other non-essential retail will close and there will be a ban on households mixing indoors as part of a bid to slow down the Covid-19 second wave.
Support bubbles for single-adult households are still permitted, and children who live between two different households will still be able to move between parents.
When could a second national lockdown 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 but added it would be “foolish” to predict what would happen with the pandemic over the next four weeks.
Why now is a lockdown happening now?
On Saturday afternoon the UK surpassed one million confirmed Covid-19 cases.
It has become clear in recent weeks that coronavirus is now spreading faster than even the worst predictions of scientists. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) infection survey found cases have “continued to rise steeply” with an average of 51,900 new cases per day of Covid-19 in private homes between October 17 and 23.
This represents a 47% jump in cases in just one week.
Government scientists now believe deaths could reach 500 per day within weeks, with the toll already topping 300 twice in the past seven days.
Advisers called for a circuit breaker almost six weeks ago, but as the number of cases and hospitalisations continued to escalate it became clear that two weeks of restrictions would no longer be enough to control the virus and drive down the reproduction number, or R value, of the virus below one.
The moves are also designed to address the problem of pressure on the nation’s hospitals to cope with a second wave. A recent meeting of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) found the rate of infections and hospital admissions was now “exceeding the reasonable worst case scenario planning levels”.
Is England alone in this?
No. Second waves are hitting hard in various countries.
France, Germany and Belgium this week announced national lockdown restrictions. France’s president Emmanuel Macron said the country was in danger of being “overwhelmed” by a second wave that would be “harder than the first”. German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned of a long, hard winter ahead.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the continent was “deep in the second wave”. Countries such as Poland and the Czech Republic, which were not too badly affected the first time around, are now seeing sharp increases in infection rates.
Wales is already halfway through a “firebreaker” lockdown, with almost everything but essential shops and schools closed to the public.
Did the first lockdown work?
It appears so. The UK, Italy, Spain and France imposed national lockdowns when badly hit by the first wave.
They were able to ease restrictions in early summer, including reopening travel involving countries on “safe” lists, but this was followed by rises in cases in the late summer, which have now increased dramatically, bringing the push for the lockdowns to be reimposed.
An early research paper published by medical journal The Lancet, often cited by people opposed to lockdowns, found that “rapid border closures, full lockdowns and and wide-spread testing were not associated with Covid-19 mortality per million people.”
But in the next sentence, the researchers state “full lockdowns and reduced country vulnerability to biological threats…were significantly associated with increased patient recovery rates.”
Further down in the study, it is also stated that governmental policy of full lockdowns, when compared with partial lockdowns or curfews, “was strongly associated with recovery rates.” A tiered system in England has done little to manage infections, but scientists hope a full lockdown could help increase recovery rates.
The researchers involved have also highlighted the limited nature of the study, as the data capture ended on May 1 and only involved 50 countries – meaning the full impact of lockdown measures may not yet have been visible as restrictions had not been in effect for long enough.
Could we have a vaccine soon?
Pharmaceutical companies continue to work to find a vaccine.
While it is difficult to predict when one will be available, Sir Jeremy Farrar suggested a vaccine could be marked safe soon.
He told Andrew Marr on Sunday: “We will know before the end of the year from the early vaccines that are now in late stage clinical trials. I believe that more than one of those vaccines will prove to be effective and safe.”
He added: “They may not be perfect, we’ve become used to perfect vaccines, but generally these first wave of vaccines are not perfect but they’re safe and they are effective and they will change the nature of the pandemic.
“They will, I believe, enhance trust and sense of confidence in where the pandemic is going. They will prevent, I hope, more people getting severely ill and they may also dent transmission itself, so they will have a big impact.”