Monday, 12 October 2020

PM plunges millions deeper into lockdown


Boris Johnson today plunged millions of people deeper into coronavirus lockdown as he delivered a grim warning that he country is teetering on the brink again. 

Unveiling his new 'Three Tier' system to MPs, the PM declared that the highest restrictions will mean pubs being shut and households banned from mixing altogether. 

But insisting he had no choice but to act, Mr Johnson said he could not 'let the virus rip'. 'Deaths are already rising,' he said. 

From Wednesday at 5pm, locals will only be allowed out of their areas for essential travel such as for work, education or health, and must return before the end of the day - although there are complaints the rules will only be guidance rather than legally enforced.  

 Restaurants will be allowed to open, but only until 10.30pm. Where businesses are forced to shut, the Government will pay two thirds of each employee's salary, up to a maximum of £2,100 a month. There is expected to be a £28million package to help parts of the country classed as Tier Three. 

'Retail, schools and universities will remain open,' Mr Johnson said. 

Liverpool is the highest profile area in the top bracket. 

However, another swathe of the country faces being thrown into the Tier Two bracket, meaning bars can stay open but households cannot mix indoors. 

That includes Manchester, which was saved from the highest curbs after frantic lobbying from mayor Andy Burnham and local MPs, as well as the North East and potentially London.

Mr Johnson said: 'The number of cases has quadrupled in the last three weeks, there are now more people in hospital with Covid than when we went into lockdown on March 23 and deaths are already rising.'

It comes after the government top advisers were sent out to 'roll the pitch' be setting out their grim assessment of the situation.

Deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam and NHS medical director Stephen Powis told a briefing in Downing Street that the number of patients in hospital was now higher than before the blanket lockdown was imposed in March - and could be above the previous peak within four weeks. Nightingale hospitals in the worst affected areas are being put on high readiness to reopen. 

Professor Van-Tam also delivered a stark message that the surge in cases was a 'nationwide phenomenon' rather than just in the North, and was spreading from younger people to the more vulnerable old generation.

Prof Powis said the hope that the elderly could be isolated from the increase in infections was proving to be 'wishful thinking'. 

Mr Johnson is facing fury as he finally unveils the government's 'traffic light' coronavirus lockdown today - with ministers warning it could last till Christmas.

Mr Johnson held a Cobra emergency meeting this morning to finalise the plan, after a weekend of frantic talks with politicians and scientists. He will facing questions at a No10 press conference tonight.  

As the coronavirus crisis enters a new worrying phase:

  • Nicola Sturgeon said Scotland will produce its own 'tiered' lockdown system after taking part in the Cobra meeting today, but said she wanted the UK nations to be aligned 'as closely as possible'; 
  • Professor Van-Tam warned that more deaths and hospitalisations are already 'baked in' due to the way cases have risen as he laid out a grim assessment of the COVID situation, teeing up the PM's announcements later; 
  • The UK is still well below the grim projection of 50,000 cases a day warned of by Sir Patrick Vallance by this stage. However, 12,872 new infections were reported yesterday - up 9 per cent on last Sunday's adjusted total;
  • London could be place into Tier Two, meaning more restrictions on households mixing, rather than the highest level amid claims that one in eight people in the capital already have antibodies; 
  • Researchers found Covid-19 can survive for a month on surfaces including banknotes and phone screens; 
  • Town hall bosses will be given powers to deploy volunteers to knock on doors and ask people to self-isolate;
  • Labour leaders in the North demanded more cash handouts from the government to support lockdown and called the new furlough scheme 'insufficient'; 
  • The BCG vaccine was given to 1,000 people in Exeter University trial to test claims that it helps fight Covid by stimulating the immune system.

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