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England’s national lockdown will expire on 2 December unless MPs vote again to extend the restrictions, Downing Street has said, setting Boris Johnson up for a potential confrontation in the Commons if new rules fail to contain the virus.
Downing Street said MPs would be asked to vote on regulations that would expire at midnight on 2 December and would get a vote on what replaced them. “The intention of the government is to go back to the tier system on a local and regional basis,” Johnson’s spokesman said.
No 10 said the intention was that the new restrictions, which would force all non-essential shops as well as pubs and restaurants to shut and prohibit most social contact, would bring the R number below one so that infections were falling.
Should the R number continue to be above one, Johnson will be under pressure to continue the harsh restrictions, which many of his MPs have spoken out against.
“We do want to get the R rate down and what we need to do is to slow the spread of infections,” Johnson’s spokesman said.
“The measures we have had in place over the course of recent month have helped to suppress the R rate … but you can see the virus is growing in most parts of the country, above one in every part of the country. It’s doubling faster in the south-east and fastest in the Midlands. The virus is spreading even faster than the reasonable worst-case scenario.”
The spokesman said the government would examine the data throughout the four-week lockdown. “We believe the package of measures is tough enough to get the R rate down again and allow us to go down to that regional approach,” he said.
Earlier on Monday, the chancellor refused to rule out the coronavirus lockdown lasting longer than its intended four weeks.
“Our expectation and firm hope, on the basis of everything we know today, is the measures we have put in place for the time they will be in place for, will be sufficient to do the job we need, and we will seek to exit these restrictions back into a tiered approach at the end of the four-week period,” Rishi Sunak told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, who directs the coronavirus operational response, chaired an emergency Cobra meeting on Monday morning to discuss the response of the devolved administrations.
Wales is expected to ease restrictions this week after a two-week “firebreak” lockdown, as England enters its tougher measures.
A spokesman said it was agreed that the four UK nations should have “a joint approach to the Christmas period”. Ministers and officials will meet again this week and further announcements are expected on restrictions on international travel.
Johnson will address the House of Commons later to set out the plan for the lockdown in England. He is likely to face criticism from backbenchers, a number of whom have said they will vote against the new restrictions on Wednesday, including the former cabinet minister Esther McVey and the chair of the 1922 Committee of backbenchers, Sir Graham Brady.
Brady wrote on Monday that the UK was being “plunged back into darkness” and said there had been mission creep from the intention of the original three-week national lockdown in March that had the potential to become a cycle of indefinite lockdowns.
What you can and can’t do in England’s new national Covid lockdown
New national restrictions are due to come into effect in England on Thursday, after MPs vote on them, and remain in place at least until 2 December.
What can I leave home for?
- For childcare or education, where it is not provided online.
- To go to work unless it can be done from home.
- Outdoor exercise either with household members or with one person from another household.
- For all medical reasons and appointments.
- To escape injury or harm, such as domestic abuse.
- To provide care for vulnerable people or volunteer.
- To shop for food and essentials.
- To see people in your support bubble.
- Children will still be able to move between homes if their parents are separated.
Government say the list is not exhaustive, and other permitted reasons for leaving home may be set out later. People could face fines from police for leaving their home without a legally permitted excuse.
Can different households mix indoors?
No, not unless they are part of an “exclusive” support bubble, which allows a single-person household to meet and socialise with another household.
Parents are allowed to form a childcare bubble with another household for the purposes of informal childcare, where the child is 13 or under.
Can different households mix outdoors?
People are allowed to meet one person from another household socially and for exercise in outdoor public spaces, which does not include private gardens.
Can I attend funerals, weddings or religious services?
Up to 30 people will still be allowed to attend funerals, while stone settings and ash scatterings can continue with up to 15 guests.
Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies are not permitted except in “exceptional circumstances”. Places of worship must remain closed except for voluntary services, individual prayer and other exempt activities.
Can I travel in the UK or abroad for a holiday?
Most outbound international travel will be banned. There is no exemption for staying away from home for a holiday. This means people cannot travel internationally or within the UK, unless for work, education or other legally permitted exemptions.
Which businesses will close?
Everything except essential shops and education settings, which include nurseries, schools and universities, will close.
Entertainment venues will also have to close. Pubs, restaurants and indoor and outdoor leisure facilities will have to close their doors once more.
However, takeaway and delivery services will still be allowed, while construction and manufacturing will stay open.
Parents will still be able to access registered childcare and other childcare activities where reasonably necessary to enable parents to work. Some youth services may be able to continue, such as one-to-one youth work, but most youth clubs will need to close their doors.
Public services, such as jobcentres, courts, and civil registration offices will remain open.
There is no exemption for grassroots organised team sports. Elite sports will be allowed to continue behind closed doors as currently, including Premier League football matches.
He said restrictions on who people could have sex with and how often they had walks in the park were unacceptable infringements of liberty.
“If a totalitarian regime sought to tell people with whom they are allowed to have sex (you must be in an established relationship), whether you are allowed to visit your parents, or which categories of workers are allowed to provide for their families, we would denounce it as intolerable evil,” he wrote in an article for the Telegraph.
“We must take Covid seriously, but it is time to shift that burden from the government and to take the responsibility on our own shoulders. Our parliament came into existence to protect the liberty of the citizen from arbitrary government. When MPs vote on Wednesday, they should remember that.”
Source: The Guardian
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