British politicians approved a month-long lockdown in England, voting in favor of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plan to try to prevent COVID-19 from running out of control and overwhelming health services. Johnson insisted that the looming new coronavirus lockdown would end “automatically” in four weeks, as he tried to placate party critics over the spiraling economic fallout.
Following a first lockdown in March, the second round of restrictions will come into effect at 00:01 GMT on Thursday, but Johnson told parliament the measures would be lifted in time to give England the chance of a more normal Christmas.
The 516-38 vote on Wednesday had been in little doubt after opposition Labour Party members said they would support the move, even though they criticized Johnson for acting too slowly. He was also criticized by some in his party who said a national lockdown was too severe.
Last weekend, Johnson abandoned a new system of regional curbs and announced an England-wide lockdown after dire warnings that hospitals could soon be overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases. Senior minister Michael Gove then indicated the lockdown could last beyond a December 2 cutoff if it failed to bring infection rates down.
The prime minister told a Downing Street news conference that he was “truly, truly sorry” for the impact on businesses, but said the furlough system paying 80% of employee wages will be extended through November.
“No responsible prime minister” could ignore figures which suggested deaths would reach “several thousand a day”, with a “peak of mortality” worse than the country saw in April, Mr. Johnson said. He also said hospitals even in the south-west of England, where cases are among the lowest, will run out of capacity in weeks.
- People are being told to stay at home unless they have a specific reason to leave, such as work which cannot be done from home and education
- And people are also allowed to leave home for exercise medical reasons, food and other essential shopping and providing care for vulnerable people or for volunteering
- Meeting indoors or in private gardens will not be allowed
- But individuals can meet one other person from another household outside in a public place
- Pubs, bars, restaurants, and non-essential retail across the nation will close but takeaways and click-and-collect shopping can remain open
- Leisure and entertainment venues, including gyms, will also close
- Construction sites and manufacturing workplaces can remain open
- People are still allowed to form support bubbles
- Children can move between homes if their parents are separated
- Clinically vulnerable people are asked to be “especially careful” but people are not being asked to resume shielding
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