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Boris Johnson has told the cabinet that England’s lockdown restrictions will come to an end on 2 December, saying that was a hard deadline to develop a new solution to contain the spread of the virus.
In a tacit admission that the current NHS test and trace system had not been enough to contain the virus, Johnson heralded a mass testing operation beginning in Liverpool, the start of an ambitious programme “Operation Moonshot” which would involve the entire population tested on a regular basis.
The prime minister also appeared to affirm the government expected the four-week national lockdown in England would be enough to get the virus’s reproduction R number below one – raising questions as to whether the lockdown would be extended should that not occur.
“Once again we are alas asking everybody to stay at home to protect the NHS to save lives and get the R down below one. I know we can, I know we will. It’s only just above one at the moment,” he said.
Speaking to the cabinet meeting, Johnson acknowledged that there would be dissent in the party. MPs will vote on Wednesday on the latest measures, with a small rebellion expected of Tory MPs – though any extension of lockdown measures would be likely to cause a far larger rebellion.
“Let’s be in no doubt none of us came into politics to introduce measures like this,” Johnson said.
“We don’t want to be doing things to repress liberty, we don’t want to do anything to damage our economy, to stop business from going about their lives, to stop anybody from doing what they wanted to do. But … what we’re doing is vital to suppress the virus and to prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed.”
Johnson reiterated that doctors and nurses would “be forced to make appalling choices on who to treat and who not to treat” if nothing further was done.
However, he said there was a “clear way ahead” and said the deadline of 2 December was a hard finish – and that a new solution needed to be developed by then.
“We have a very clear way ahead. These measures – the crucial thing to understand is that they expire on 2 December. They come to an end. And we therefore as a government and indeed as a country have a deadline and a target to develop solutions which previously … did not exist,” he said.
Johnson said rapid-turnaround testing “can be a massive and possibly decisive use to us in this country in defeating the virus”.
He said that “amid the uncertain gloom of November I see light ahead” and said ministers must “work flat out as a government to repay the confidence of the people who are doing the right thing and following the latest autumn measures”.
With two days to go before measures come into effect, ministers earlier prompted confusion over England’s new lockdown rules with Michael Gove apologising for incorrectly indicating tennis and golf could be played, as cabinet colleague Robert Jenrick apparently wrongly suggested a family would be allowed to meet a friend for a walk outside.
Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, issued an apology for signalling that singles tennis and golf in pairs could still go ahead. Jenrick, the communities secretary, mistakenly said that a family could go for a walk with a friend – despite there being a two-person limit on people meeting outdoors when outside of households or support bubbles.
Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth said: “This is a pretty stark admission that fixing contact tracing isn’t a priority for Boris Johnson. Ministers lost control of the virus in the first place because of their failure to build an effective localised contact tracing regime with proper support to help people isolate.
“The priority for the next four weeks is rolling out saliva based testing more widely for key workers especially NHS staff, fixing contact tracing by putting local public health teams in charge and ensuring people have security to isolate when needed.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: England lockdown will end on 2 December, Boris Johnson insists | World news