The second coronavirus peak that we have seen around the world has shown us all that we are going to be dealing with the coronavirus for the long term.
That is why over the past weeks and months we have been working on a long-term, balanced approach that protects the NHS, keeps children in school, lets the economy function as much as possible, and does not require constant changes.
We had hoped we could manage the situation with our regional system of alert levels, and allow as many people to live as normal a life as possible. That’s because a national lockdown is not cost-free - not only in terms of jobs, businesses, and livelihoods, but also the impact on mental health and loneliness.
This is why we have been so determined to try and avoid another national lockdown. But over the last few days the situation has significantly deteriorated.
- This is now clearly a national problem. While the virus is more widespread in the North West, it is doubling faster in the South East, and fastest in the Midlands. on present trends hospitals in the South West would run out of current capacity by the end of November. Other regions would follow soon after.
- If the NHS were to be overwhelmed, it would mean non-COVID cases turned away from hospital because there is no room left. Critically, important surgeries and treatments cancelled and many left without treatment. We will increase NHS capacity as much as possible but even if we doubled NHS capacity, that extra capacity would also be full within a single doubling time of the virus.
- Everyone can see that the situation in the UK, and across other parts of Europe, right now is incredibly serious.Incidence rates are growing and the NHS is under increasing pressure.
We need to take action now to protect the NHS and to reduce transmission. We must do this to curtail the exponential growth in hospitalisations and deaths.
Next week we will therefore take action across the whole of England, because there is no alternative. These restrictions will apply nationally for four weeks up to Wednesday 2 December, and will override the current Local Alert Level restrictions.
On Monday, the Prime Minister will set out our plans to Parliament. On Wednesday, Parliament will have the opportunity to debate and vote on these measures which, if passed, will come into force on Thursday.
- We will tell the public that they must stay at home, and may only leave home for limited reasons, including: education; work or volunteering, if it is impossible for do this from home; exercise and recreation outdoors; medical reasons, appointments and to escape injury or harm; provision of care for a child – including informal childcare – or vulnerable person. There is no exemption for staying away from home on holiday – so people cannot do so in this country or elsewhere - but people can stay away for work where necessary.
- Non-essential shops, pubs, bars, restaurants, leisure and entertainment venues will all be closed – but will be able to provide takeaway. Essential shops will stay open: there is no need for people to stock up.
- Workplaces should stay open where people cannot work from home – for example in the construction or manufacturing sectors.
- Adults living alone will still be able to form support bubbles, and children will still be able to move between homes if their parents are separated.
- Those who are clinically vulnerable, or over the age of 60, will be advised to be especially careful to follow the rules. The Government will not ask people to shield in the same way again.
But there will be some differences compared to March:
- These are time-limited measures. On the 2 December, we will seek to ease restrictions, on a local and regional basis, according to the latest data.
- Our priority remains keeping young people in education - so formal and informal childcare, early years settings, schools, colleges and universities will all remain open. Our senior clinicians still advise that school is the best place for children to be.
- We will also keep provision for non-COVID-19 healthcare needs going. We will continue to say clearly to the public that unless their clinicians tell them otherwise they should continue to use the NHS, get their scans, turn up for their appointments and pick up their treatments.
This aggressive action allows us the prospect of a better December. The alternative would be even more stringent, and longer-lasting, interventions through December and thereafter.
What happens next depends on each and every one of us. It is therefore necessary for me to ask you to join the Government in appealing to the public to: Stay at Home. Protect the NHS. and Save Lives.
Over the past eight months of this crisis we have helped millions of people to continue to provide for their families.
But now - along with many other countries around the world - we face a tough winter ahead. We have always said that we will do whatever it takes as the situation evolves.
Now, as restrictions get tougher, we are taking steps to provide further financial support to protect jobs and businesses. These changes will provide a provide a vital safety net for people across the UK.
- Extend Furlough for November. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – known as the furlough scheme – will be extended until the end of November to cover the new restrictions with employees receiving 80% of their current salary for hours not worked.
- Support businesses forced to close. Business premises which are legally forced to close to receive grants worth up to £3,000 per month in England.
- Extend Mortgage holiday. Mortgage holiday will be extended to reassure homeowners. Mortgage payment holidays will no longer end today.
- Additional support for local authorities. £1.1 billion will also be provided to Local Authorities to enable them to support businesses.
Stay at Home. Protect the NHS. And Save Lives
We will get through this – but we must act now to contain this autumn surge. We are not going back to the full-scale lockdown of March and April. It is less prohibitive and less restrictive.
But from Thursday the basic message is the same: Stay at Home. Protect the NHS. And Save Lives.