As coronavirus cases across the country rise – and scientists warn half a million people are getting infected a week – a national lockdown has been announced and will begin on Thursday (November 5).
The prime minister has told a press conference this evening that to stop the NHS being overwhelmed again there was no alternative but another lockdown.
The PM said that without action, deaths would reach ‘several thousand a day’, with a ‘peak of mortality’ worse than the country saw during the lockdown in April.
The PM is said to have met the chancellor Rishi Sunak and the health secretary Matt Hancock yesterday as a crisis meeting was held over a second lockdown.
Johnson had resisted pressure from scientists and Labour to introduce a ‘circuit-breaker’ to curb Covid-19 cases, but was facing fresh calls after new data showed the extent of cases across England.
He has now been forced to act.
Here we look at what could happen and what it will mean to car dealers.
What is happening?
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a nationwide lockdown for England which will start at 00.01 on Thursday and last until December 2.
Pubs, bars, restaurants and non-essential retail across the nation will close from Thursday, and people will be told to stay at home unless they have a specific reason to leave, but schools, colleges and nurseries will remain open.
Earlier reports on Friday suggested Tier 4 restrictions would be imposed, putting half the country’s population into lockdown, but meetings between the PM, ministers and health experts decided on the need for a more stringent move.
What will happen in a national lockdown?
People will be allowed outside to exercise and socialise in public spaces outside with their household or one other person, but not indoors or in private gardens, and will be able to travel to work if they cannot work from home.
Furlough payments at 80 per cent will be extended for the duration of the restrictions as high streets once again shut up shop.
- People can leave for recreation with their own household, or on their own with one person from another household (a ‘one plus one’ rule).
- People can leave home to shop for food and essentials and to provide care for vulnerable people or as a volunteer.
- Attending medical appointments is also allowed or to escape injury or harm (such as for people suffering domestic abuse).
- Support bubbles will remain in place and people can still meet up in their bubble.
- Children can move between the homes of their parents if their parents are separated.
MPs will vote on the new measures before they are introduced at 00.01 on Thursday, and when they lapse on December 2, the current tier system will be reintroduced.
Will car dealers and other businesses be closed?
Yes. Car dealerships are classed as non-essential retail so will be forced to close.
It is understood that in England click-and-collect style sales will not be allowed under these rules apart from at supermarkets. However, home deliveries are still allowed. The rules on this are yet to be fully clarified.
In Wales, the national lockdown closed car dealerships and they have been forced to operate home deliveries.
For other businesses:
- Non-essential shops, leisure and entertainment venues will all be closed.
- Bars, pubs and restaurants must stay closed except for delivery or take-away services.
- Hairdressers and beauty salons will close.
Can car dealers survive this?
Yes! Car dealers have worked on a number of resilient measures to cope with lockdowns. It will be tough, but online sales helped many dealers stay afloat during the first lockdown.
Dealers have also built up their cash reserves after a bumper third quarter so will be in better financial positions than ever before. However, the longer it goes on the tougher it will get.
Car dealers told us this week that they are better prepared than ever for a second national lockdown.
Very disappointed to read in the papers about a potential proper lockdown. If proves correct, I am afraid it will do a lot more damage to society and economy than any benefit re Covid. @t4recovery shows there is an alternative, more balanced approach.
— Robert Forrester (@vertumotors) October 31, 2020
What support is available to businesses in a second lockdown?
The furlough scheme has been extended for a month. The Job Support Scheme has been delayed as a result.
Furlough was due to end today.
We have summarised the key differences with the JSS here.
What else did the PM say?
In the Downing Street press conference, Johnson said ‘no responsible Prime Minister can ignore’ the rising rates of Covid-19 infections as he announced the lockdown.
He said ‘we need to be humble in the face of nature’, adding that the virus was spreading even faster than the worst case scenario envisaged by scientists.
- Schools, colleges and universities will all remain open.
- Childminders and nurseries will stay open and childcare bubbles, where for example a grandparent provides childcare while a parent works, will be able to continue.
- After-school clubs and sports clubs will be suspended until December 2.
- Playgrounds and parks will remain open.
- You are advised not to travel unless for essential reasons. People can travel for work.
- Churches will remain open for private prayer.
- Funerals are limited to close family members only. It is currently unclear what the rules are for weddings.
Why has it come to this?
It has become clear in recent weeks that Covid-19 is now spreading faster than the worst predictions of scientists.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) infection survey found cases ‘continued to rise steeply’ in the week ending October 23, with an estimated 568,100 people becoming infected.
Government scientists now believe at least 50,000 new cases of Covid-19 are occurring in England daily, and deaths could reach 500 per day within weeks.
The moves are designed to address the problem of pressure on the nation’s hospitals to cope with a second wave.
A recent meeting of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) found the rate of infections and hospital admissions was now ‘exceeding the reasonable worst case scenario planning levels’.
When will it end?
As ever, while the world waits for a vaccine, the idea is to return the country and economy to normal as soon as is feasible.
This lockdown, though, will end on December 2. Christmas, says the PM, is likely to ‘be very different’ to usual.
Professor Jeremy Farrar, an infectious diseases expert and Sage member, tweeted: ‘The sooner we get on top of the disease, reduce transmission, R<1, the sooner we can get our society back to normal and the economy back on track.’
Do nationwide lockdowns work?
It appears so. The UK, Italy, Spain and France imposed national lockdowns when badly hit by the first wave.
They were able to ease restrictions in early summer, including reopening travel involving countries on ‘safe’ lists, but this was followed by rises in cases in the late summer, which have now increased dramatically, bringing the push for the lockdowns to be reimposed.
It is thought the Eat Out To Help Out scheme had a big impact on driving infections up.
What about testing?
Plans to increase Britain’s testing capacity at least appear to be on track. Johnson promised this would reach 500,000 per day by the end of October, and latest figures show it has hit 480,000.
Pharmaceutical companies continue to work to find a vaccine.
While it is difficult to predict when one will be available, the head of the UK’s vaccine taskforce, Kate Bingham, this week told The Guardian there was a glimmer of hope one of the leading candidates could be approved by Christmas.
First published: Oct 31, 07:01; Updated several times, most recently 19:46
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