Johnson Considers New National Lockdown For England
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is considering ordering England back into a national lockdown next week after scientists said the coronavirus was spreading faster than their worst predictions, a government official said on Saturday.
- Last Updated: October 31, 2020, 20:12 IST
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LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is considering ordering England back into a national lockdown next week after scientists said the coronavirus was spreading faster than their worst predictions, a government official said on Saturday.
The pandemic is spreading in most parts of Britain, where the official death toll of 46,299 is the highest in Europe.
The prime minister called a cabinet meeting on Saturday to reach agreement on the new measures for England, and was due to hold a news conference within hours, the official said. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland run their own pandemic policies.
The Times newspaper said Johnson might announce that only essential shops, nurseries, schools and universities will remain open in a month-long lockdown. Johnson’s office declined to comment.
A national lockdown would represent a dramatic change of policy for the prime minister, who has been saying for months that it will not be necessary.
Two weeks ago he defended his strategy of a patchwork of local restrictions by saying he wanted to avoid the “misery of a national lockdown”. Currently, areas of England are subject to one of three tiers of coronavirus restrictions.
But the government’s scientific advisers say coronavirus infections are rising so fast that, unless the spread can be slowed, hospitals will be overwhelmed and their “reasonable worst case” scenario of 80,000 dead could be exceeded.
Calum Semple, professor of outbreak medicine at the University of Liverpool and member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), said the second wave of COVID-19 was a reality.
“And, unlike the first wave, where we had a national lockdown which protected huge swathes of society, this outbreak is now running riot across all age groups,” he told the BBC.
A new lockdown is likely to face resistance from Conservative lawmakers concerned about the economic, social and health costs.
John Redwood, a member of parliament and former cabinet minister, said he was “full of foreboding” and expected lawmakers to be given a vote on any new measures.
A new lockdown would heap more pressure on finance minister Rishi Sunak and the Bank of England to increase their already huge support for the UK economy, the world’s sixth-biggest. The economy slumped a record 20% in the spring and has been struggling to maintain its recovery.
In Tier 3 of the current system, different households are banned from mixing, pubs and bars are closed, wedding receptions are prohibited, and travel in or out is to be avoided.
Some analysts have already said that the regional restrictions imposed in recent weeks will shrink the economy again in the fourth quarter.
France and Germany announced national lockdowns this week, while Northern Ireland closed schools for two weeks and restaurants for four weeks from Oct. 16.
Wales is in the middle of a two-week lockdown in which everybody apart from essential workers must generally stay at home. In Scotland, millions of people are banned from socialising indoors or drinking in pubs, and are subject to travel restrictions.
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