UK's Johnson considering new national lockdown for England
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[October 31, 2020]
By Andrew MacAskill
LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister
Boris Johnson is considering imposing a new month-long national lockdown
in England next week after scientists said the coronavirus was spreading
faster than their worst predictions, a government official said.
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 has called a cabinet meeting for later on Saturday
and the new measures are still under discussion with no final decision
made, the official said. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland run their
own policies on fighting the pandemic.
Johnson is expected to hold a news conference on Monday to announce the
new measures, which would allow only essential shops and schools,
nurseries and universities to remain open, The Times newspaper said.
The prime minister's office declined to comment.
The decision to impose a national lockdown would represent a dramatic
change of policy for the prime minister who has insisted for months he
did not believe such a move would be necessary.
Johnson said two weeks ago he wanted to avoid the "misery of a national
lockdown" as he defended his strategy of imposing a patchwork of local
But the government's scientific advisers are warning COVID-19 infections
are rising so fast that unless something can be done to reduce
infections, the "reasonable worst case" scenario of 80,000 dead could be
Currently, the government has a three-tier system of restrictions for
local areas in England, with Level 3 the highest.
A member of the government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies
(SAGE) said on Saturday that the virus was "running riot" across all age
"For the naysayers that don't believe in a second wave, there is a
second wave," Calum Semple, a professor of outbreak medicine at the
University of Liverpool, told the BBC.
"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."
Any move to impose another national lockdown is likely to face
opposition from Conservative lawmakers who are concerned over the
economic, social and health costs of the biggest curtailment of freedoms
since World War Two.
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Commuters travel through Vauxhall underground station, amid the
outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in London Britain,
October 30, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
John Redwood, a member of parliament and a former cabinet minister,
said he is "full of foreboding" about the possible new restrictions
and he expects lawmakers will be able to vote on the 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
In the current system, Tier 3 includes a ban on mixing of people in
different households, pubs and bars are closed, wedding receptions
are not permitted, and travel to or from the area should be avoided.
Some analysts have said the regional restrictions on businesses
imposed in recent weeks will cause the economy to contract again in
the fourth quarter and a national lockdown would inflict greater
France and Germany announced national lockdowns earlier this week,
while in 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 stay at home, except for very
limited purposes, such as for exercise. In Scotland, millions of
people from Monday face a continued ban on indoor socialising,
drinking in pubs and travel restrictions.
(Reporting by Andrew MacAskill; Editing by Frances Kerry)
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