Prime Minister Boris Johnson has set out new measures to address a nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases. In a televised address, Mr Johnson announced that the measures will be similar to the March lockdown, with people told to work from home if possible and schools closing for most pupils.
The announcement comes amid concerns over a new variant of the virus, which has been found to spread much more easily. The PM announced the new England lockdown, with people told to stay at home and schools shut for most pupils from tomorrow. Education must move to remote learning except for children of key workers or vulnerable children.
The national lockdown is expected to last until March. Mr Johnson says people should follow the new rules from now, which will become law in the early hours of Wednesday morning. MPs will be given a vote to approve them retrospectively on Wednesday.
The prime minister says he “completely understands the inconvenience and stress” the disruption to education will cause parents and pupils. But he says the government has been doing “everything in our power to keep schools open.” He continued, “The weeks ahead will be the hardest yet, but I really do believe we’re entering the last phase of the struggle.”
Premier League football and other elite sports with testing regimes and bubbles in place will continue behind closed doors. Exercising outside is allowed once a day, but venues such as gyms, tennis courts and golf courses will be closed.
Prior to the PM’s televised announcement, Sir Keir Starmer said Labour would support any move towards tighter restrictions in England, and urged the prime minister to “stop dithering.”
The Labour leader said, “The virus is out of control. We have got to get it back under control. The more we delay, the worse it will be. The more we delay, the longer schools will be closed.”
On Monday, the UK recorded 58,784 new confirmed COVID-19 cases. This is the seventh day in a row that in excess of 50,000 new cases have been reported.
Data from NHS England showed hospital admissions of patients with COVID-19 have hit an all-time high. There were 3,145 reported admissions in England for 2 January, exceeding the previous high of 3,099 on 1 April last year.
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said the data showed the pandemic was at a “critical point” and that “immediate and decisive action” was necessary. “The government must now immediately tighten the current tier system rules,” he said.
The UK’s chief medical officers and NHS England’s medical director said in a statement that “without further action there is a material risk of the NHS in several areas being overwhelmed over the next 21 days”.
“There are currently very high rates of community transmission, with substantial numbers of Covid patients in hospitals and in intensive care,” they said.
“Cases are rising almost everywhere, in much of the country driven by the new more transmissible variant.”
The statement concluded by saying that it was “absolutely crucial” people still came forward for emergency care.
A YouGov poll conducted today showed 79% of Britons back another national lockdown.
Locally, Wirral’s COVID-19 cases rose sharply, latest figures show. Every ward in Wirral, except Bidston & St. James, showed a sharp increase in numbers from the previous week.
Just two weeks ago, Wirral’s infection rate was 67.3 per 100,000 – this has now risen dramatically to 213.9 per 100,000, but is below the national rate for England of 376.9 per 100,000.
The number of COVID-19 cases in Wirral (Pillar 1 & 2) rose from 389 to 693.
Wirral’s symptom-free testing centres are open at the following locations and times:
- Birkenhead Market Re-open Tuesday 5 to Saturday 9 January 9am to 4:15pm (Closed Sunday)
- The Floral Pavilion, New Brighton open 7 days a week 10:30am to 6:30pm
- Greasby Library open 7 days a week 10:30am to 6:30pm
- Eastham Library open 7 days a week 10:30am to 6:30pm