LONDON: The Cabinet Minister Michael Gove says it is his “fervent hope” that England’s new lockdown will end on 2 December – but that ministers will be “guided by the facts”. “We do need to get the R rate below 1,” the Cabinet Office minister told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.
The strict measures have been enforced from Thursday. Pubs, restaurants, gyms, non-essential shops and places of worship will close, but schools, colleges and universities can stay open. Labour has said it will back the lockdown.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he expects the lockdown to last until 2 December, after which England’s regional tiered system will be reintroduced. But Mr Gove told the BBC decisions would “obviously be guided by the facts”.
He said ministers believe “on the basis of the evidence that we have that we will be able to [lift restrictions]” by 2 December. He stressed that “we do need to get the R rate [the number of people that one infected person will infect] below 1”. Earlier, he told Sky News the lockdown could be extended beyond the December deadline.
The prime minister told a Downing Street news conference on Saturday that the measures were to prevent a “medical and moral disaster” for the NHS. He warned that Christmas may be “very different” but said he hoped taking action now would mean families can gather.
The UK recorded another 21,915 confirmed coronavirus cases on Saturday, bringing the total since the pandemic began to 1,011,660. Another 326 people were reported to have died within 28 days of a positive test.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told the BBC there would “be no effective exit on 2 December unless the government uses this time to fix test, trace and isolate”. He has called for the lockdown to stay in place until the R rate is below 1.
The latest R estimate for the whole of the UK is between 1.1 and 1.3. On Sunday, the UK recorded 23,254 new confirmed cases of coronavirus and 162 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.Mr Gove said ministers were moved to introduce more stringent measures in order to prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed.
What are new restrictions?
People will be told to stay at home except for specific reasons
These include work which cannot be done from home, childcare or education, exercise outdoors, medical reasons, essential shopping, providing care for vulnerable people or for volunteering, and visiting members of your support bubble
Meeting indoors or in private gardens will not be allowed, but individuals can meet one other person from another household outside in a public place
Non-essential retail will close, but can remain open for click-and-collect delivery
Pubs, bars, restaurants will have to close, but can still provide takeaway and delivery, excluding takeaway of alcohol
Indoor and outdoor leisure facilities, such as gyms and swimming pools, will also close, along with entertainment venues and personal care facilities such as beauty salons
Places of worship will close, unless they are being used for funerals, to broadcast acts of worship, individual prayer, formal childcare, or essential services such as blood donation or food banks
Construction sites and manufacturing workplaces can remain open.
Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies will not be able to take place except in exceptional circumstances, and funerals will be limited to a maximum of 30 people
Children will still be able to move between homes if their parents are separated
Clinically vulnerable people will be asked to be “especially careful” but people will not be asked to resume shielding
Overnight stays, staying in a second home, and holidays will not be allowed – including in the UK and abroad – although there are exceptions, such as work trips
People will be told to avoid all non-essential travel by private or public transport.