London, Oct 31 (efe-epa).- UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Saturday that England will enter lockdown for the second time amid a surge in Covid-19 infections that has seen the number of new cases reach an average of more than 22,000 a day.
“From Thursday until the start of December, you must stay at home,” the Conservative prime minister said during a news conference where he was accompanied by the government’s scientific advisers.
“You may only leave home for specific reasons,” he said, listing examples such as travel to school or work, shopping for necessities, seeking medical care, or to exercise for one hour per day.
Ten days after rejecting the notion of another lockdown as “the height of absurdity,” Johnson, who survived a serious case of Covid-19 earlier this year, told his compatriots “there is no alternative.”
“Unless we act, we could see deaths in this country running at several thousand a day,” he said, abandoning the government’s previous strategy of localized lockdowns in hot spots such as Manchester and Liverpool.
Health officials said Saturday that coronavirus had claimed an additional 326 lives in the United Kingdom over the preceding 24 hours as the country passed the 1 million mark for total cases.
The UK death toll from the virus stands at 46,555.
Hospitals across the UK were treating nearly 11,000 Covid-19 patients on Saturday.
The measures presented by Johnson apply to England, which accounts for the vast majority of the UK’s 66 million people. The regional administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland set public health policy in their respective jurisdictions.
Johnson had planned to present the plan on Monday in the House of Commons, but leaks forced him to move up the announcement.
The timetable calls for lawmakers to pass the requisite legislation next Wednesday in time for the restrictions to take effect at midnight.
From next Thursday until Dec. 2, restaurants, pubs and bars will be open only for takeout and deliveries, while “non-essential” shops must close.
People are to work from home if they can, though there is an exemption for the construction and manufacturing sectors. Schools, universities, Parliament and the courts will continue to function.
Houses of worship can keep their doors open, but may not hold services.
Domestic travel will be limited and most international travel suspended.
Johnson said that the furlough subsidies aimed at preserving jobs, which had been to set to end Saturday, will be extended for another month.
The government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, said that the second lockdown is needed to stop fatalities from soaring.
“What is clear that in terms of deaths over the winter, there is the potential for this to be twice as bad in comparison to the first wave. The model is showing that this could be the case,” he said.