Prime Minister Boris Johnson has tonight (January 4) announced a new national ‘lockdown’ for England to be effective from now and being made law on Wednesday morning.
The lockdown is expected to last until at least mid-February.
The announcement comes amid rising covid rates, hospital admissions and deaths. Mr Johnson said the number of Covid patients in English hospitals is now some 27,000 – 40% higher than the first peak in April.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the action has been forced by the new variant of covid which is up to 50 to 70% more transmissible.
He said: “With most of the country already under extreme measures it is clear we need to do more together to bring the new variant under control.”
He said the new lockdown means:
Stay at home
Only leave home for essential reasons such as essential shopping, exercise, medical assistance, to escape domestc abuse and work if you cannot work from home.
Those who are clinically vulnerable are advised to begin shielding and will receive letters to update them on their situation.
All primary and secondary schools and colleges will move to online learning from tomorrow although they will remain open for vulnerable and key worker children.
Discussions will take place with Ofqual (Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation) to make alternative arrangements for exams. Children who receive free school meals will continue to receive support and more ‘devices’ to make home learning possible will be distributed.
The PM said: “The weeks ahead will be the hardest yet but I really do believe that we’re entering the last phase of the struggle because with every jab that goes into our arms we’re tilting the odds against Covid and in favour of the British people.”
A full list of restrictions is due to be published on the gov.uk website.
Thanet, along with the rest of Kent, was already in Tier 4 restrictions with many leisure, hospitality and personal/beauty businesses forced to close or, for pubs and restaurants, only offer takeaway and delivery.
However, schools were being told to open in Thanet despite high covid rates. This is now reversed with the national ‘lockdown.’
Covid alert Level 5
The UK’s chief medical officers had advised a move from covid alert level 4 up to 5 after advice from the Joint Biosecurity Centre and in the light of the most recent data.
It means the NHS is at risk of being overwhelmed within 21 days “in several areas” without further action.
🔵UK COVID-19 Alert Level 5: A COVID-19 epidemic is in general circulation; transmission is high or rising exponentially and there is a material risk of healthcare services being overwhelmed. (5/5)https://t.co/u6xj05MQgt pic.twitter.com/3NKA3zpAfm
— UK Prime Minister (@10DowningStreet) January 4, 2021
In a statement Chief Medical Officer for England, Professor Chris Whitty and his counterparts for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland say: “Many parts of the health systems in the 4 nations are already under immense pressure. There are currently very high rates of community transmission, with substantial numbers of COVID patients in hospitals and in intensive care.
“Cases are rising almost everywhere, in much of the country driven by the new more transmissible variant. We are not confident that the NHS can handle a further sustained rise in cases and without further action there is a material risk of the NHS in several areas being overwhelmed over the next 21 days.
“Although the NHS is under immense pressure, significant changes have been made so people can still receive lifesaving treatment. It is absolutely critical that people still come forward for emergency care. If you require non-urgent medical attention, please contact your GP or call NHS 111.”
It is expected that all those in the top four priority list areas will have received vaccinations by the middle of February.
New lockdown rules
You must not leave, or be outside of your home except where necessary. You may leave the home to:
- shop for basic necessities, for you or a vulnerable person
- go to work, or provide voluntary or charitable services, if you cannot reasonably do so from home
- exercise with your household (or support bubble) or one other person, this should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area.
- meet your support bubble or childcare bubble where necessary, but only if you are legally permitted to form one
- seek medical assistance or avoid injury, illness or risk of harm (including domestic abuse)
- attend education or childcare – for those eligible
Colleges, primary and secondary schools will remain open only for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers. All other children will learn remotely until February half term. Early Years settings remain open.
Higher Education provision will remain online until mid February for all except future critical worker courses.
If you do leave home for a permitted reason, you should always stay local in the village, town, or part of the city where you live. You may leave your local area for a legally permitted reason, such as for work.
If you are clinically extremely vulnerable you should only go out for medical appointments, exercise or if it is essential. You should not attend work
You cannot leave your home to meet socially with anyone you do not live with or are not in a support bubble with (if you are legally permitted to form one).
You may exercise on your own, with one other person, or with your household or support bubble.
You should not meet other people you do not live with, or have formed a support bubble with, unless for a permitted reason.
Stay 2 metres apart from anyone not in your household.