Covid-19: England’s Third Lockdown Legally Comes Into Force
London: England’s third national lockdown has legally come into force, with MPs set to vote retrospectively on it later.
All of the UK is now under strict virus curbs, with Wales, Northern Ireland and most of Scotland also in lockdown, the BBC reported on Wednesday.
The measures, which include a stay-at-home order and the closure of schools to most pupils, were announced by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday.
It comes after the number of new daily confirmed cases of Covid in the UK topped 60,000 for the first time.
And it is thought one in 50 people in private households in England had the virus last week – rising to one in 30 in London.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics also suggested more than one million people in England had Covid between December 27 and January 2.
At a Downing Street press conference on Tuesday, Johnson said he had “no choice” but to impose the latest lockdown in light of the latest figures, with the number of patients in hospitals 40 per cent higher than in the first peak.
He would not guarantee that all children would be back in school before the summer holidays but insisted he was full of “optimism and fundamental hope” that things will be different in the spring.
The need to debate and vote on the measures means the House of Commons has been recalled from its Christmas recess for the second time – the first being for the post-Brexit trade deal with the EU.
Johnson will update MPs, most of whom will not physically be in the chamber, on the new rules before the vote, which is due in the evening.
The regulations, which allow the lockdown to be in place until the end of March, are expected to pass with ease – as Labour is set to support the motion.
Under the measures, people in England will only be able to go out for essential reasons, exercise outdoors will only be allowed once a day, and outdoor sports venues must close.
Meanwhile, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is to make a Commons statement later about the cancellation of A-Level and GCSE exams in England.
England’s lockdown came into force legally overnight. But it’s actually on Tuesday that the measures will be brought before MPs.
Any rebellion by Conservative MPs is expected to be smaller than those seen late last year on restrictions.
However, some do want more of a say in the next couple of months over how long the regulations might last.
On Tuesday, Johnson said that by mid-February – with hopes for the vaccine rollout – there is the “prospect” of beginning the relaxation of some measures.
But the same press conference, England’s chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty said we shouldn’t “kid ourselves” that the virus will disappear with the spring – and suggested a “few” restrictions might have to be brought in next winter.
At-a-glance: New rules in England
*People cannot leave their homes except for certain reasons, like the first lockdown last March
*These include essential medical needs, food shopping, exercise and work for those who cannot do so from home
*All schools and colleges will close to most pupils from Tuesday with remote learning until February half term
*Early years settings such as nurseries will stay open
*End-of-year exams will not take place this summer as normal
*Elsewhere, university students should not return to campuses and will be taught online
*Restaurants can continue to offer food delivery, but takeaway alcohol will be banned
*Outdoor sports venues – such as golf courses, tennis courts and outside gyms – must close. But outdoor playgrounds will remain open
*Amateur team sports are not allowed, but elite sport such as Premier League football can continue