People in all of England and most of Scotland must now stay at home except for a handful of permitted reasons, as new lockdowns begin in both nations. Schools have closed to most pupils in England, Scotland and Wales, while Northern Ireland will have an “extended period of remote learning”. England’s rules are expected to last until mid-February, while Scotland’s will be reviewed at the end of January. PM Boris Johnson warned the coming weeks would be the “hardest yet”. It comes after the UK reported a record 58,784 cases on Monday, as well as a further 407 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.
Source: BBC News
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Announcing England’s lockdown, Mr Johnson said hospitals were under “more pressure from Covid than at any time since the start of the pandemic”.
He ordered people to stay indoors other than for limited exceptions – such as essential medical needs, food shopping, exercise and work that cannot be done at home – and said schools and colleges should immediately move to remote teaching for the majority of students.
And he said all care home residents and their carers, everyone aged 70 and over, all frontline health and social care workers, and the clinically extremely vulnerable will be offered one dose of a vaccine by mid-February.
While the rules become law in the early hours of Wednesday, people should follow them now, the PM added.
Earlier on Monday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon issued a stay-at-home order for Scotland, beginning at midnight and lasting until the end of January.
Scotland’s lockdown, which is for the mainland and Skye, will also see schools closed to pupils, places of worship closed and group exercise banned.
“It is no exaggeration to say that I am more concerned about the situation we face now than I have been at any time since March last year,” Ms Sturgeon said.
Wales, which has been in a national lockdown since 20 December, said schools and colleges would shut until 18 January for most pupils.
Meanwhile, Northern Ireland, which entered a six-week lockdown on Boxing Day, plans to put its stay-at-home message into law, and will have an “extended period of remote learning”, the Stormont Executive said.
And in England, exams will again face disruption. The prime minister said they would not take place as normal in the summer, while a government source told BBC News that A-Levels and GCSEs will be cancelled.
By 8pm on Monday it felt inevitable.
But it doesn’t mean that a national instruction to close the doors was automatic. Or indeed that new lockdowns in England and Scotland aren’t still dramatic and painful.
With tightening up in Wales and Northern Ireland too, the spread of coronavirus this winter has been faster than governments’ attempts to keep up with it – leaving leaders with little choice but to take more of our choices away.
There is much that’s an echo of March. Work, school, life outside the home will be constrained in so many ways, with terrible and expensive side-effects for the economy.
This time, it’s already spluttering – restrictions being turned on and off for months have starved so much trade of vital business.
But there’s a lot that’s different too. After so long, the public is less forgiving of the actions taken, and there is frustration particularly over last-minute changes for schools; fatigue too with having to live under such limits.
Under England’s new measures, support and childcare bubbles will continue, and people can meet one person from another household for outdoor exercise.
Communal worship and life events like funerals and weddings can continue, subject to limits on attendance.
Mr Johnson said even though a new, more infectious variant of the virus is spreading across the UK, vaccinating the top four priority groups by mid-February could allow restrictions to be eased.
He added those who are clinically extremely vulnerable will be contacted by letter and should now shield once more.
The House of Commons has been recalled to allow MPs to vote on England’s new restrictions on Wednesday.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said his MPs would “support the package of measures”, saying “we’ve all got to pull together now to make this work”.
British Chambers of Commerce director general Adam Marshall said companies would understand why a lockdown was necessary – but added they will be “baffled and disappointed… that he did not announce additional support for affected businesses alongside these new restrictions”.
At-a-glance: New rules
- 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
In mainland Scotland and Skye:
- Nursery, primary and secondary schools will close to all most pupils until February. Learning will move online
- People should only leave home for essential reasons, like the first lockdown last March
- Those who are shielding should not go into work, even if they cannot work from home
- A maximum of two people from up to two households can meet outdoors, excluding under-11s who can play together outside
- Places of worship will close except for weddings (up to five people) and funeral services (up to 20 people). Wakes are not allowed
- The definition of an essential business will be tightened with premises such as ski centres, large retail showrooms, and cosmetic clinics required to close