Home health Boris Johnson says he had no alternative to second Covid lockdown

Boris Johnson says he had no alternative to second Covid lockdown

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Boris Johnson says he had no alternative to second Covid lockdown


Key points in COVID lockdown Mark 2 

  • Restrictions will start at midnight on Thursday morning and last until December 2. 
  • People can only leave their homes for specific reasons, such as to do essential shopping, for outdoor exercise, and for work if they are unable to work from home.
  • Non-essential shops will be told to shut, although supermarkets do not need to close off aisles as has happened in Wales.
  • Restaurants and bars will be told to close unless they can operate a takeaway service. 
  • Travel abroad is only permitted for ‘essential’ reasons such as work, people can still return to the UK from abroad. 
  • Leisure centres, gyms, sporting venues, hairdressers and beauty parlours will have to close, although professional sport will continue. 
  • Key businesses that cannot operate remotely – such as construction – should carry on as before with safety precautions.
  • Places of worship can stay open for private prayer. Funerals are limited to close family only.  
  • The furlough scheme will be extended during the period of the lockdown, rather than ending as originally planned. Self-employment grants will also be increased from 40 per cent of previous profits to 80 per cent for this month.
  • Exercise is permitted with no limits on frequency, but organised sports – including outdoor activities such as golf – will not be permitted. 
  • When the lockdown lapses the Tiers system will be reinstated, leaving questions about what metric will be used to decide whether areas can have restrictions eased. 

Britain today recorded its lowest number of daily coronavirus cases in a fortnight, on the same day Boris Johnson desperately tried to convince Tory MPs to back a draconian second lockdown.

Department of Health figures show another 18,950 people tested positive for the disease — down 9.3 per cent in a week and the lowest since Monday, October 19 (18,804). The UK also saw another 136 coronavirus deaths — a rise of 33.3 per cent on the 102 lab-confirmed fatalities posted last week.

Top scientists said the infection data could be evidence of England’s three-tier lockdown system starting to take effect, by cutting down the speed of growth in the North. It raises questions about whether Number 10 jumped the gun with a second national shutdown, which SAGE warned was needed to save Christmas.

It comes as the Prime Minister insisted cases were now surging so high there was ‘no alternative’ to the month-long blanket restrictions across England. He warned that otherwise the death toll could be double that in the previous peak.

In a statement to the Commons, he tried to soothe a growing mutiny by reassuring the House that the measures will legally end on December 2 – and if they need to be extended there will be another vote.

But he was roasted by Keir Starmer for wasting weeks refusing to lock down England while the death toll spiralled – before performing an embarrassing U-turn.  Sir Keir said the premier had wasted 40 days when his own scientific experts were urging a ‘circuit breaker’ – during which time daily deaths had soared from just 11 to 326. 

‘On September 21 when the Government’s scientists Sage recommended an urgent two to three-week circuit break there were 11 deaths from Covid-19 and just over 4,000 Covid infections,’ Sir Keir said.

‘For 40 days the Prime Minister ignored that advice and when he finally announced a longer and deeper national lockdown on Saturday those figures had increased to 326 deaths a day and 22,000 Covid cases.

‘That is the human cost of the Government‘s inaction. The reality is that the two pillars of the Prime Minister’s strategy, the £12billion Track and Trace and regional restrictions have not only failed to stop the second wave, they’ve been swept away by it.

‘At every stage, the Prime Minister has been too slow, behind the curve. At every stage, he has pushed away challenge, ignored advice and put what he hoped would happen above what is happening.

‘At every stage, he’s over-promised and under-delivered. Rejecting the advice of his own scientists over 40 days was a catastrophic failure of leadership and of judgment.’

The intervention came as Mr Johnson faced the wrath of Conservative MPs enraged by the ‘evil’ new rules.  They have been branded ‘unimaginable’ and compared to the actions of a ‘totalitarian regime. 

A crunch vote is due on the lockdown plan on Wednesday, with dozens of Tories threatening to oppose the rules. But Sir Keir has said Labour will vote with Government, meaning the lockdown is likely to sail through despite Tory revolt. 

Boris Johnson today begged Tories to keep faith in his coronavirus strategy as he defended his plan to plunge England into a fresh national lockdown

Keir Starmer

In the Commons today, Boris Johnson was roasted by Keir Starmer for wasting weeks refusing to lock down England while the death toll spiralled – before performing an embarrassing U-turn

KEIR STARMER ROASTS BORIS JOHNSON FOR IGNORING CIRCUIT-BREAKER ADVICE

Boris Johnson was today roasted by Keir Starmer for wasting weeks refusing to lock down England while the death toll spiralled – before performing an embarrassing U-turn.

In a statement to the Commons, the PM insisted cases were now surging so high there was ‘no alternative’ to the month-long blanket restrictions across England. He warned that otherwise the death toll could be double that in the previous peak.

But he tried to soothe a growing mutiny by reassuring the House that the measures will legally end on December 2 – and if they need to be extended there will be another vote. 

The Prime Minister also declared that grants for the self-employed will be ramped up from 40 per cent of average previous profits to 80 per cent, although it is not clear whether that will be just for the during of the squeeze.

However, Sir Keir launched an excoriating attack on Mr Johnson for his ‘failure’ to introduce the crackdown quickly enough.

He said the premier had wasted 40 days when his own scientific experts were urging a ‘circuit breaker’ – during which time daily deaths had soared from just 11 to 326.

‘On September 21 when the Government’s scientists Sage recommended an urgent two to three-week circuit break there were 11 deaths from Covid-19 and just over 4,000 Covid infections,’ Sir Keir said.

‘For 40 days the Prime Minister ignored that advice and when he finally announced a longer and deeper national lockdown on Saturday those figures had increased to 326 deaths a day and 22,000 Covid cases.

‘That is the human cost of the Government’s inaction. The reality is that the two pillars of the Prime Minister’s strategy, the £12billion Track and Trace and regional restrictions have not only failed to stop the second wave, they’ve been swept away by it.

‘At every stage, the Prime Minister has been too slow, behind the curve. At every stage, he has pushed away challenge, ignored advice and put what he hoped would happen above what is happening.

‘At every stage, he’s over-promised and under-delivered. Rejecting the advice of his own scientists over 40 days was a catastrophic failure of leadership and of judgment.’

The intervention came as Mr Johnson faces the wrath of Conservative MPs enraged by the ‘evil’ new rules. They have been branded ‘unimaginable’ and compared to the actions of a ‘totalitarian regime.

Before the statement, Speaker Lindsay Hoyle laid into government leaks that prevented the news being announced to Parliament first. He insisted that the culprit must be identified and if it is an MP they must make a personal apology to the House. 

Scientists and Cabinet ‘Doves’ have been accused of an extraordinary choreography to force Mr Johnson into the draconian lockdown – amid warnings it could devastate the economy. 

On another chaotic day as the UK wrestles with the worst public health crisis in a generation: 

  • The UK has recorded another 18,950 people testing positive for coronavirus — down 9.3 per cent in a week and the lowest since Monday, October 19. There were 136 more deaths — up 33.3 per cent on the 102 fatalities posted on the same day last week; 
  • Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said 7,500 troops are on standby to support the coronavirus effort, with Mr Johnson saying they could help distribute rapid new tests; 
  • Shares in retail and leisure firms have plummeted as the stock market reacted to Mr Johnson’s hastily released plans; 
  • Mr Sunak has revealed that support for the self-employed is set to be boosted along with furlough, which has been extended for the duration of the national lockdown;
  • Wales has insisted that its ‘firebreak’ lockdown will end on November 9 despite the move in England, as the divisions within the UK widened alarmingly;
  • There are complaints that a model suggesting 4,000 people a day could be dying from coronavirus by next month could be four or five times too high and is already out of date; 
  • SAGE experts have claimed thousands of lives could have been saved if the government had moved to lock down earlier.

MPs are furious about a concerted effort to ‘bounce’ the PM into imposing the swingeing restrictions in England from December 2, as it was revealed that science chief Sir Patrick Vallance gave a blood-curdling briefing to reporters on Friday underlining SAGE’s demands for an immediate lockdown – alongside figures suggesting more than 85,000 people could die this winter.

The bombshell assessment came an hour before the powerful ‘quad’ of the PM, Michael Gove, Matt Hancock and Rishi Sunak met around 3.30pm to discuss the move.

Sir Patrick told stunned reporters that it was too late for a two-week circuit breaker, and a four-week lockdown similar to that introduced in France was the best way to control the R number. Those in the briefing were left in little doubt that a national squeeze was coming. 

In fact Mr Johnson had still been wavering on the issue that morning, when Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was sent out to defend the local ‘Tiers’ system on the airwaves. The premier even ‘argued against himself’ about whether the damage from lockdown would be worse than the disease during the ‘Quad’ meeting.

But, confronted with Sir Patrick and Chris Whitty’s dire predictions he set the wheels in motion on a month-long lockdown. 

Timeline of the PM’s lockdown decision 

Friday, 7am: Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab begins a round of broadcast interviews defending the government’s ‘Tiered’ system of local lockdowns.  

Friday 2.30pm: Sir Patrick Vallance underlines SAGE’s support for a national lockdown at a briefing with reporters, suggesting it was getting late to arrest the spike in cases before Christmas.

Friday 3pm: Papers are released online from a SAGE meeting which show that advisers warned ministers on October 14 that the UK could be headed for a situation more serious than the scientists’ ‘worst case scenario’.   

Friday 3.30pm: The Covid ‘Quad’ committee, which has taken all the key strategic decisions during the pandemic, met in the Cabinet Office. Mr Johnson, Rishi Sunak, Matt Hancock and Michael Gove attended along with around 15 officials.

Early evening : Downing Street is informed that ITV political editor Robert Peston has received a ‘read-out of the whole meeting’, according to the Times. 

10.30pm: No10’s plans to shut-down England for at least a month have also been leaked to the Daily Mail and are revealed when the first edition of Saturday’s paper drops. 

Saturday 7am: BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg reveals some of the information shown to the quad involves daily deaths could top 4,000.

11am: Boris Johnson calls an unscheduled Cabinet briefing to update furious ministers on his plans. With just hours to go he also calls a hastily arranged live television press conference for 4pm to brief the nation about his plans.

Downing Street, which had hoped to make the announcement on Monday, launches an investigation to find the source. 

1.30pm: Cabinet meets virtually, with the PM dialling in from Downing Street. It lasts more than an hour

3:40pm: Broadcasters are briefed a summary of the measures Mr Johnson will be announcing at the press conference, following the Cabinet meeting.

6:45pm: Boris Johnson, flanked by chief medical officer Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick, finally fronts the delayed press conference and unveil the lockdown. 

Within hours the tentative decision taken by the elite group was leaked to the Daily Mail and Times – before the full Cabinet had been informed – in an apparent effort to prevent the PM changing his mind. 

By Saturday morning the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg was giving details of two key documents that were shown to the ‘quad’, a controversial prediction that the daily death toll would hit 4,000 a day and that NHS hospitals would be overwhelmed. 

There has since been criticism that the 4,000 a day projection was already out of date. It was produced by experts from the University of Cambridge and Public Health England who have since revised their numbers and lowered the possible numbers of deaths. 

Nevertheless, both slides formed a key part of the data finally officially presented on Saturday night, when a livid Mr Johnson brought forward his announcement after a call with his clueless wider Cabinet.

A formal leak inquiry has now been launched to find the culprit – with claims that just 15 people, including Sir Patrick, chief medical officer Chris Whitty and NHS England head Sir Simon Stevens were in the meeting.

There have even been dark threats that the police could be called in to find who undermined the PM’s approach. 

Fingers have been pointed at Mr Gove and Mr Hancock, both of whom deny being the source. Downing Street insists it was not in its interests for the information to go public at that stage.

A former Cabinet minister told MailOnline that the behind-the-scenes manoeuvring over the lockdown was ‘very odd’.

They suggested that the intervention from Sir Patrick was part of an effort to ‘bounce’ the PM. ‘It does sound like a bounce. If he was briefing people in advance he was obviously trying to build up a head of steam behind the notion of a lockdown,’ they said.

The Tory MP suggested the events had the hallmarks of a ‘Gove-Cummings’ operation – a reference to the fact that the PM’s chief adviser used to work for the Cabinet Office minister. ‘I don’t think there is any doubt about that. Gove has already proven that he doesn’t feel a great deal of loyalty to the PM,’ the MP said.

‘I was always astounded Boris brought him in again. Presumably it was part of the package with Cummings.

‘It’s the Gove-Cummings axis that is the problem here.’

The MP said the figures being used to support the lockdown move, including claims that deaths could hit 4,000 a day, were questionable

‘The figures don’t appear to have been updated to reflect the true state of affairs,’ they said.

A government source told the Telegraph that Mr Johnson had not made a final decision by the end of the Quad meeting, and Mr Sunak was working on ‘softening the impact and trying to keep it focused on the regional approach’.

The source added: ‘When it was leaked it became a done deal and forced the Prime Minister to take action.’  

In another tumultuous day of coronavirus developments:

Boris Johnson (pictured in Downing Street today) announced at a press conference on Saturday night that England is being plunged into another lockdown to stop the spread of coronavirus

Boris Johnson (pictured in Downing Street today) announced at a press conference on Saturday night that England is being plunged into another lockdown to stop the spread of coronavirus

Ministers warn ‘all bets are off’ on Christmas unless lockdown works 

Cabinet ministers have warned ‘all bets are off’ on families being able to celebrate Christmas together if Boris Johnson’s national lockdown fails to curb coronavirus infection rates.

The Prime Minister’s England-wide shutdown is due to start on Thursday and the Government’s aim is to lift the blanket restrictions on December 2.

However, the Government has failed to guarantee that will be a firm exit date amid fears the shutdown could be extended over the festive period and even into the new year.

Ministers believe the ‘lag’ between the point of infection and the point at which people can become seriously ill could mean that the death figures are still surging even by the end of the lockdown.

That could fuel calls for the draconian measures to be kept in place until the start of 2021 or beyond. 

Mr Johnson moved to reassure MPs that he will ‘seek to ease’ curbs and return to the localised tiered system on December 2, following suggestions from Mr Gove yesterday the lockdown could be extended again.

Mr Sunak tried to soothe angry Tory backbenchers this morning insisting the lockdown measures will be legally ended on the date.

He said the ‘hope and expectation’ was that the virus would be at a low enough level by then to ease the curbs, although he admitted they will be kept under review.

However, government sources have been warning that lockdown could stretch well into next month if hospitalisations remain high and that ‘all bets are off’ for Christmas.

Sir Keir Starmer has said Labour will vote with the Government, meaning the lockdown will likely sail through the Commons. 

But the PM has come under fire from his own side and will face stiff opposition from hawkish Tory backbenchers gearing up to rebel against the measures.

Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the powerful 1922 committee, led the backlash of MPs, telling the BBC’s Westminster Hour last night: ‘I think the aspect of the lockdown restrictions that actually bother me most would be the extent of intrusion in what ordinarily we see as fundamental human rights; the freedom of association, the right to family life, we even now have the Government telling us who we can sleep with or not depending on if they’re deemed to be in an established relationship. 

‘If these kinds of measures were being taken in any totalitarian country around the world we would be denouncing it as a form of evil. And here the removal of people’s fundamental liberties is going almost without comment.’   

Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the powerful 1922 committee, led the Tory backlash warning that the government curbs on civil liberties were 'evil'

Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the powerful 1922 committee, led the Tory backlash warning that the government curbs on civil liberties were ‘evil’ 

Questions over dossier prediction of 4,000 deaths per day 

The 4,000 deaths per day scenario was based on the assumption that there would be 1,000 per day by the start of November. Real numbers of people dying are significantly lower, with an average 182 per day in England and 162 confirmed yesterday for the whole UK

The 4,000 deaths per day scenario was based on the assumption that there would be 1,000 per day by the start of November. Real numbers of people dying are significantly lower, with an average 182 per day in England and 162 confirmed yesterday for the whole UK

The claim that 4,000 people could be dying from coronavirus by next month could be four or five times too high and not reflect the current situation, experts warn.

The shocking figure was presented by chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance in Saturday’s TV briefing where Boris Johnson announced the UK’s second lockdown.

But there are concerns that it’s out of date and inaccurate, with SAGE accused of ‘misleading’ the public and MPs by cherry-picking the scariest data.

Professor Carl Heneghan, of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at the University of Oxford, said he ‘cannot understand why they have used this data’.

The forecast could be four or five times too high, he said, because it is based on there being an average 1,000 deaths per day in the UK right now. In reality the daily average was 182 per day October 22 and 28, according to Department of Health data.

The number, which appeared as the worst case on a graph with three other possible scenarios, was created by statisticians at the University of Cambridge and Public Health England who have since revised their numbers and lowered the possible numbers of deaths. The team’s forecasts are not published online, like some of their other work, but are sent directly to SPI-M, a sub-group of SAGE, to do with it what they choose.

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A potential 4,000 fatalities per day if there are no changes to restrictions was almost twice as high as the second worst case, which put them at a touch higher than 2,000 per day.

The lowest estimates in the no-action scenario estimated deaths at just below 2,000 per day, and all were higher than the peak in the first wave, when the most deaths were recorded on April 8 (1,073).  

Tory ex-minister Sir Desmond Swayne said it would take a ‘huge amount of persuasion for me to vote for this disastrous course of action’.

Former Cabinet minister Esther McVey said she would vote against them because the ”lockdown cure’ is causing more harm than Covid’. 

Backbencher Peter Bone told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning he had not yet decided how to vote on the measures outlined by Prime Minister Boris Johnson when they are debated in the Commons on Wednesday.

Hitting out at ‘unreadable graphs’ at the press conference, Mr Bone said: ‘At the moment, I have not been convinced that I should vote on Wednesday with the Government. 

Some of those on the backbenches were even calling for Mr Johnson to go. He’s on borrowed time, totally inept,’ one source told The Times.

‘I think it could be his Suez,’ a former cabinet minister told the paper, in a reference to the 1950s crisis that led to Anthony Eden’s resignation.

A minister told the paper: ‘He’s been overrun by the virus and by his ‘advisers.’ They are nasty, they misunderstand the parliamentary party, and above all are totally, totally sh*t. Over the last week — with the row over free school meals and this — I think we’ve lost the next election.’ 

The row over the leaks from the ‘Quad’ has become so serious that No10 is threatening to call in the police.

One Cabinet source told the Telegraph: ‘They are going studs up on the leak. They will do everything possible. ‘If they have to bring the police into this they will do that. That is the level of seriousness this is being treated at. 

‘The sentiment – particularly among Cabinet ministers – is that when they find the leaker they should be absolutely punished. You can imagine how the Chief Whip feels.’ 

Sources insisted Sir Patrick’s briefing came at a normal off the record discussion with journalists. 

Meanwhile, it has been announced that Sir Patrick and Prof Whitty are due to be grilled by the Commons Science Committee tomorrow about the new restrictions. 

Mr Johnson announced the second lockdown – which will begin on Thursday following the Commons vote the day before – during a Downing Street press conference on Saturday night.

A worst case prediction of as many as 4,000 deaths a day by Christmas without action being taken was the final straw for a Prime Minister who had previously ruled out such a move as his ‘nuclear deterrent’.

Pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops will be forced to close, although, unlike the first lockdown in March, schools will remain open.

Addressing MPs in the House of Commons this afternoon, he is expected to say: ‘Models of our scientists suggest that unless we act now, we could see deaths over the winter that are twice as bad or more compared with the first wave.

‘Faced with these latest figures, there is no alternative but to take further action at a national level.

‘I know some in the House believe we should have reached this decision earlier, but I believe it was right to try every possible option to get this virus under control at a local level, with strong local action and strong local leadership.’

The Prime Minister will, however, stop short of guaranteeing that the national lockdown will end on December 2 as proposed.

PM begs Tory MPs to trust him over lockdown plan 

Boris Johnson will today beg mutinous Tory MPs to keep the faith in his coronavirus strategy by warning deaths this winter could be double the first wave unless they back his blanket lockdown. 

The Prime Minister will use a statement to the Commons this afternoon to say there is ‘no alternative’ about imposing four weeks of draconian curbs across England to wrestle down the resurgent virus.      

Mr Johnson will move to reassure MPs that he will ‘seek to ease’ the crackdown on December 2 and return to the localised tiered system, despite suggestions from Michael Gove yesterday the time could be extended beyond Christmas.

Rishi Sunak tried to soothe angry Tory backbenchers this morning by insisting the measures will be legally ended on the date.

He said the ‘hope and expectation’ was that the virus would be at a low enough level by then, although he admitted they will be kept under review.

However Cabinet ministers are privately warning that lockdown could stretch well into next month if hospitalisations remain high and that ‘all bets are off’ for Christmas.

Sir Keir Starmer has said Labour will vote with the Government, meaning the lockdown will likely sail through the Commons. 

But hawkish Tory backbenchers are gearing up for a damaging revolt, warning that the limits on freedoms are like in a ‘totalitarian state’.

Mr Johnson will say: ‘At the end of four weeks, on Wednesday 2 December, we will seek to ease restrictions, going back into the tiered system on a local and regional basis according to the latest data and trends.’

But a Whitehall source said: ‘The next three or four months are going to be very tough.

‘Hopefully we can ease things up a bit after a month, but that isn’t certain and we are still going to have to keep our foot on the brake to a certain extent.

‘So far, Tier Three is the only thing short of lockdown shown to have worked at all. It is reducing the R-rate – only very slowly, and the rate is still above one – but it does work to stop things getting worse.

‘With Tier Two, it is much harder to say it is working. Maybe it would if compliance was better, but so far it is not reducing the R-rate – it is not a solution.’

Mr Sunak is regarded as the leading Cabinet hawk on the need to keep the economy running, and has been forced to deny claims that he threatened to resign. 

But speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Sunak said when medical and science experts briefed senior ministers last week it was clear the only ‘responsible’ course was to impose a national lockdown. 

‘What’s clear is that the virus is spreading even faster than the reasonable worse case of our scientific advisers,’ he said.

‘And the models suggested that, unless we acted, we would see deaths in this country running at levels in excess of where they were in the spring – a peak of mortality far higher,’ the Chancellor said.

‘And we saw incidents, even in areas where it’s currently low, rising at a very rapid rate, which would mean that, in a matter of weeks, the NHS would be overwhelmed.’

Mr Sunak gave a stark warning that unemployment is set to rise due to the clampdown. 

‘Close to three-quarters of a million people have already tragically lost their jobs and sadly many more will,’ he said. 

‘That is going to happen as a result of the restrictions we are putting in place’ 

Mr Suank tried to reassure angry Tory backbenchers by insisting the lockdown measures will be legally ended on December 2.

He said the ‘hope and expectation’ was that the virus would be at a low enough level by then to ease the curbs, although he admitted they will be kept under review.

Pressed on whether the R rate was key to restrictions being lifted on that date, Rishi Sunak said: ‘It would be wrong to say there was one single indicator.

‘There is a range of different things we look at.’

Asked if self-employment support would rise to 80 per cent of usual profits from around 40 per cent currently, the Chancellor stressed the grants cover a longer period than the furlough scheme.

Recovery, a campaign group against lockdowns, beams its message: 'Lockdowns don't work' onto the Houses of Parliament in Westminster

Recovery, a campaign group against lockdowns, beams its message: ‘Lockdowns don’t work’ onto the Houses of Parliament in Westminster 

Shares plunge on lockdown news 

Boris Johnson‘s new lockdown plan sent shares in retail and leisure firms plummeting today as the stock market reacted to his hastily released plans. 

British Airways owner IAG, Wetherspoons, Cineworld, JD Sports, EasyJet and pub and restaurant owner Mitchells and Butlers all saw heavy falls in their share price this morning.

Airlines, pubs and non-essential retail are set to be put back into a deep freeze for at least four weeks from Thursday.

But there were also winners from the plans to shut all non-essential retailers until December 2.

Ocado, Just Eat Takeaway, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and B&Q owner Kingfisher all saw a boost in shares as investors anticipated an increase in sales for online food delivery and DIY businesses.

Ocado announced profits will now be higher than previously thought – sending shares up nearly 8 per cent within an hour of the stock market’s 8am opening. 

‘Directionally of travel, the 40 per cent will go up to reflect the fact that at least one of those months of support will be at a higher level for those who are in employment,’ Mr Sunak said.

Mr Gove said yesterday that it was his ‘fervent hope’ that the restrictions could be ended as planned – but admitted that an extension may be necessary.

He said ministers would be ‘guided by the facts’, adding: ‘We do need to get the R rate below 1.’

Asked whether an extension was possible, he told Sky News: ‘Yes.’

The PM is said to have been torn by the decision to go back into lockdown because of the impact it would have on people’s lives and jobs – but felt he had no choice when presented with data showing the NHS was on course to be overwhelmed within weeks.

One ally said: ‘It breaks his heart to do things that mean businesses are going to close down and people are going to lose their jobs. He is a free-market Conservative who doesn’t want to do any of this stuff.

‘But we are talking about a situation where the NHS would be unable to accept new patients through the door. You are talking about people dying in hospital corridors and car parks. It is morally impossible for any government to sanction that. And it’s probably not politically survivable.’

 Restive Tory MPs last night demanded the Government produce an exit plan, or an alternative strategy, to ensure the country is not trapped in a cycle of repeated lockdowns.

Charles Walker, who represents Broxbourne in Hertfordshire, said: ‘The lockdown is like a nightmare that we’ll never wake up from – a dream where whatever door you open to escape leads back to the same place. We can’t keep doing the same thing because it doesn’t work.’

A Cabinet minister warned the Times that Christmas plans for many will wrecked if the R rate remains high.  

One economist predicted as much as £1.8billion could be wiped off the value of the economy every day that lockdown lasts. 

Lord Rose, the former Marks & Spencer boss, said the reintroduction of restrictions was a disaster.

Churches call for exemptions from curbs 

Senior clergy are writing to the Government to question why key elements of services have not been exempted from lockdown.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and the Bishop of London say they will also emphasise the ‘critical role’ that churches play in the community.

In a letter written to the clergy of the Church of England (CoE), Justin Welby, Stephen Cottrell and Sarah Mullally praised the ‘energy, hard work and creativity’ of members which had allowed worship to continue during the pandemic.

‘We are grateful that the new guidelines being introduced on Thursday not only allow churches to remain open for private prayer but also enable online worship to be broadcast from the church building,’ they said.

‘We were cautious about these issues during the first lockdown – perhaps overly so – but in this second lockdown we want to encourage church buildings to remain open for private prayer wherever possible.’

The bishops said that more resources and training would be given to church leaders to enable them to conduct services online.

But they added that the use of sacraments was an integral part of physical services and should not be viewed as an ‘optional extra’ by the Government.

‘My estimate is that for every day it carries on, you can say it is between two and three weeks of recovery time,’ he added. ‘So, if it goes on for a month, that’s possibly a year’s recovery time.’

Mark Littlewood, from the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: ‘We have now reached the point – in terms of both our health and our wealth – where the cure is worse than the disease.’

The Prime Minister was given warnings by his chief scientific and medical advisers that the NHS could be overwhelmed by Covid-19.

But so far the Department of Health has refused to release the dossier that helped tip England back into lockdown. 

The projection of a possible 4,000 daily deaths by Christmas – from Cambridge University in conjunction with Public Health England – significantly outstripped all other estimates.

Meanwhile, senior clergy are writing to the Government to question why ‘certain exemptions’ have not been made.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and the Bishop of London say they will also emphasise the ‘critical role’ that churches play in the community.

In a letter written to the clergy of the Church of England (CoE), Justin Welby, Stephen Cottrell and Sarah Mullally praised the ‘energy, hard work and creativity’ of members which had allowed worship to continue during the pandemic.

‘We are grateful that the new guidelines being introduced on Thursday not only allow churches to remain open for private prayer but also enable online worship to be broadcast from the church building,’ they said.

‘We were cautious about these issues during the first lockdown – perhaps overly so – but in this second lockdown we want to encourage church buildings to remain open for private prayer wherever possible.’

The bishops said that more resources and training would be given to church leaders to enable them to conduct services online.

But they added that the use of sacraments was an integral part of physical services and should not be viewed as an ‘optional extra’ by the Government.

What’s the truth about No10’s gloomy Covid figures? Top advisers DROPPED their estimate on number of daily cases before lockdown announcement, official infections are barely rising and NHS had 40,000 spare beds at peak of pandemic

SAGE advisers’ estimates of how many people are catching Covid-19 each day actually went down at the end of October, despite Boris Johnson forcing the nation into another lockdown amid fears the virus was out of control.

In a slide shown in the Prime Minister’s gloomy TV briefing, chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance pointed to one projection that there are currently between 50,000 and 63,000 new infections per day in England.

But the most recent estimate, manufactured by SAGE sub-group SPI-M, was a downgrade from one it made just a week earlier on October 20, when it projected there were 53,000 to 90,000 infections per day, suggesting the Government’s top scientific advisers have toned down how fast they think the virus is spreading.

The more conservative estimate was made on October 27, five days before the second lockdown was announced. It came after a month of the group warning every week that infections were spiralling but failing to provoke any action from the Government as advisers and scientists across the country piled pressure on the PM for nationwide policies. 

Mr Johnson’s top advisers also warned on Saturday that hospital admissions for Covid-19 and the numbers of beds filled by coronavirus patients are surging and the NHS could run out of room by December, unless any action was immediately taken.

But there is no data to show how full hospitals really are. Neither the Government nor NHS bosses provide regular updates of what proportion of beds are full or how many beds are still available. Instead, they offer a weekly report on how many Covid-19 patients are being treated at each trust and a once-a-month update on how many of the overall number of beds occupied are taken up by the infected. 

There are known to be more than 114,000 hospital beds available in England but only around 9,000 are currently occupied by coronavirus patients. The total number of inpatient beds that could be called upon – including those rented from private hospitals and those in make-shift Nightingales – is unknown. Government graphs suggest the ‘current available capacity’ is only around 20,000 despite almost 40,000 beds sitting empty during the spring.  

Hospital beds are filling up mostly with people who caught the infection days or even weeks ago, however, and positive tests appear now to be tailing off, adding to confusion about the true direction of the outbreak. 

The 4,000 deaths per day scenario was based on the assumption that there would be 1,000 per day by the start of November. Real numbers of people dying are significantly lower, with an average 182 per day in England and 162 confirmed yesterday for the whole UK

The 4,000 deaths per day scenario was based on the assumption that there would be 1,000 per day by the start of November. Real numbers of people dying are significantly lower, with an average 182 per day in England and 162 confirmed yesterday for the whole UK

SPI-M estimate of new infections declines 

The estimate of new cases, made by the SAGE sub-group SPI-M-O, is considered one of the three most reliable ranges and was shown alongside estimates based on mass testing by the Office for National Statistics and the Government-funded REACT study. 

Taking the mid-point of the range suggests SPI-M’s best estimate of new daily cases has dropped from 71,500 to 56,500 in a week – a fall of 21 per cent.

And the upper limit of the estimate was lower on October 27 than at any time since October 7 – it fluctuated from 57,000 then to 74,000 up to 90,000 and back down to 63,000.

Although the drop estimate doesn’t indicate a trend because it is only one week’s change, it marks a slowdown in the experts’ previously soaring estimates. They narrowed the range and have tended towards the lower end of predictions made in the most recent weeks.  

The SPI-M estimate came after a week of confusing data that suggested the number of people catching the virus each day could be anywhere between 34,000 and 96,000 in England.

One of the Office for National Statistics’ top Covid-19 analysts said on Friday that cases in England were ‘rising steeply’, while an epidemiologist behind another project said people could be ‘reassured’ that the virus isn’t out of control. 

Of studies estimating the numbers of new infections each day in England, the ONS put the figure at 51,900; King’s College’s Covid Symptom Study said 34,628; a Cambridge University ‘Nowcast’ said 55,600; and the Government-funded REACT study by Imperial College London put it at 96,000. 

The Department of Health’s official testing programme is only picking up 23,016 infections each day, but is known to miss large numbers without symptoms.

All the calculations have increased since their previous estimates and are in agreement the outbreak is still getting worse, but the speed at which this is happening is unclear.

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Hospital admissions are rising but maximum capacity is unknown  

While tens of thousands of people continue to catch coronavirus every day, the number of people heading into hospital is surging.

In October the number of people in English hospitals with Covid-19 soared almost five-fold from 1,995 on the first of the month to 9,213 on the 31st, Department of Health data shows.

And Mr Johnson and his advisers warned in Saturday’s briefing that admissions are on track to exceed levels seen in the spring crisis within weeks, heading for more than 30,000 inpatients by the end of November and more than 4,000 new admissions per day in the first week of December.

But how much capacity hospitals actually have to cope with a surge in Covid-19 patients is not clear.  

NHS England’s most up-to-date occupancy figures show 113,000 hospital beds were taken up across the country on October 1 — but just 2,000 of these were patients who had tested positive for Covid-19.

The number of Covid-19 patients being admitted to hospital has since spiralled – with 9,000 beds in England taken up by the infected on October 31.

But health chiefs have never released figures detailing exactly how busy the NHS is, or was, throughout the course of the pandemic.

MailOnline revealed at the height of the first wave in April that Covid-19 patients never made up more than 30 per cent of the total beds occupied. Just under 19,000 patients out of 70,000 in hospitals at that time had Covid-19. 

But it is not clear how many more beds could have been used by the NHS if it needed them, with thousands made available in Nightingale hospitals and deals to rent beds on with private wards.

WHY AREN’T THE UK’S OFFICIAL DAILY CASES GOING UP RAPIDLY?

The increase in people testing positive for coronavirus appears to have slowed down in England towards the end of October, with the daily average now declining.

The 18,950 positive tests announced today is the lowest number for two weeks and England’s daily average, measured by the date on which tests were done, peaked at 18,500 on October 23 and has declined since, to 18,130 on October 26, the most recent date with reliable data.

Possible reasons for a flattening in the curve, which had been rising sharply for weeks, could be that there is a lag in the data and cases are higher than they appear, or that the effects of the local lockdown tier system are now showing through in statistics.

Lockdowns do not lead to an immediate reduction in cases because it takes days or even more than a week for someone to feel ill, then get tested, then get their result. And a lockdown that doesn’t stop all contact would take even longer because cases will still be occurring.

Daily coronavirus cases by date of test in England

Daily coronavirus cases by date of test in England

Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious diseases expert at the University of East Anglia, told MailOnline: ‘First thing to say is it’s just one day and it’s entirely plausible it’s some sort of glitch in the system. I never think it’s worth leaping about and getting too excitement about one day’s data, especially on a Monday.

‘But there does appear to be slight slowing down in the epidemic. With the rolling average, the rate of increase has been slowing down for about a week or so.

‘We all thought it was slowing down about two weeks ago and they forgot to put several thousand in the dataset.

‘Let’s just assume that it is slowing down. National lockdown has clearly not got anything to do with it.

‘In the last couple of weeks what seems to be happening is that the northern cities – Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities – the rate of increase seems to have slowed.

‘One possibility, but it’s too early to say, is that the regional tier system was in fact working. I’m not saying it was but that could be the explanation.

‘The only other possible explanation is it’s a glitch and there’s been another problem in reporting.

‘The problem is from my perspective, when handling something like this, if we keep changing the rules and not giving them enough time to take effect, you never know what measures worked.’

Tens of thousands of beds were left empty and unused during the peak of the first wave after hospitals turfed out patients to make room for an overwhelming surge in Covid-19 patients that never fully materialised.

In April the Health Service Journal reported that 41 per cent of NHS hospital beds were empty on the weekend of April 11-12 — around 37,500 out of a possible 91,600.  

And the NHS has kept hold of the thousands of beds it commandeered to fight off the first wave, with nine make-shift Nightingale facilities on standby to help cope with a second surge of Covid-19, meaning capacity has been upgraded past its usual 110,000. 

NHS England figures show hospitals across the country were 92 per cent full last December, with 93,442 beds out of 101,598 taken up by patients needing overnight care, on average. 

Winter always increases pressure on hospitals because flu is in circulation, and it is not clear whether some beds will have to be closed in order to segregate patients onto Covid and non-Covid wards.

Positive tests in England appear to be levelling off 

But as hospital beds start to fill up, England’s coronavirus cases appear to have started levelling off after a mid-September surge, according to official statistics which have sparked more confusion about testing data.

Statistical projects tracking the disease’s spread have estimated there are between 34,000 and 100,000 new infections happening each day in England, and that transmission is doubling every nine or so days.

The overwhelming consensus that this is the case has been used by Government scientists to justify retreating back into a national lockdown like the one that gripped the country in the spring.

Yet the central testing regime is picking up fewer than half as many cases as experts believe are being contracted, according to latest Public Health England data.

The most recently published figures by PHE suggest the outbreak has stabilised, with the number of people who are testing positive every day actually falling for two consecutive days.

Average daily cases in England peaked at 18,500 on October 26, up just 2.3 per cent in four days, according to the most recent snapshot.

Yet the REACT-1 study, commissioned by the Department of Health, estimated that there were about 96,000 new infections on October 25 and that the figure was doubling every nine days.

But the official figures show confirmed cases have only doubled in between three and four weeks, soaring from below 9,000 on October 2 to 18,500 on October 26.  

The discrepancy between the official testing numbers and the gloomy figures by scientists reveals how Number 10’s scheme is failing to keep up with the epidemic and does not accurately reflect its current trajectory.

There are thought to be several factors behind the disparity. But the main issue is that the central system is forced to prioritise symptomatic people and vulnerable groups because of a lack of capacity.

Experts believe up to 80 per cent of Covid-19 infections are mild or asymptomatic, which make them harder to track down and isolate.

Between 200,000 and 300,000 tests are being carried out every day in England — a figure which has crept up only incrementally since summer.

A fifth of tests carried out every day are on patients and staff people in hospitals and care homes, who are prioritised because patients and residents are among the most vulnerable to falling critically ill or dying from the disease.

Latest figures for October 29 show a total of 272,510 swabs were conducted, of which 60,969 (22 per cent) were on these groups.

The number of tests that need to be done to find a single case of coronavirus has plummeted because so many more people now have the virus, data shows. During the summer, dozens and even hundreds of tests were carried out for every one positive result because fewer than 30,000 people were thought to have the virus. Now, more than 500,000 people are thought to be carrying the virus in England so significantly fewer tests have to be done to find a positive case

The number of tests that need to be done to find a single case of coronavirus has plummeted because so many more people now have the virus, data shows. During the summer, dozens and even hundreds of tests were carried out for every one positive result because fewer than 30,000 people were thought to have the virus. Now, more than 500,000 people are thought to be carrying the virus in England so significantly fewer tests have to be done to find a positive case

So what’s the TRUTH about Britain’s second wave? R rate drops again and symptom-tracking app says outbreak is ‘stable’ – but Imperial warns of 96,000 cases a day and even ONS claims infections are ‘rising steeply’ 

There is no doubt that coronavirus infections are still surging in the UK but mathematicians and scientists don’t agree on how bad the second wave really is. 

A raft of statistics have been published in the past 48 hours with conflicting estimates of the number of people getting infected with the virus ranging from 35,000 to 96,000 per day, and some casting doubt over doom-laden warnings of a repeat of March’s catastrophe.

Statistics published this week have produced a wide range of possible daily infections in England, from as few as 34,000, according to an estimate by King's College London to as many as 96,000, according to the Government-run REACT study

Statistics published this week have produced a wide range of possible daily infections in England, from as few as 34,000, according to an estimate by King’s College London to as many as 96,000, according to the Government-run REACT study

One of the Office for National Statistics’ top Covid-19 analysts today said cases in England are ‘rising steeply’, while an epidemiologist behind another project said people could be ‘reassured’ that the virus isn’t out of control. 

Of studies estimating the numbers of new infections each day in England, the ONS put the figure at 51,900; King’s College’s Covid Symptom Study said 34,628; a Cambridge University ‘Nowcast’ said 55,600; and the Government-funded REACT study by Imperial College London put it at 96,000. The Department of Health’s official testing programme is picking up 22,125 infections each day, but is known to miss large numbers without symptoms.

All the calculations have increased since their previous estimates and are in agreement that the outbreak is getting worse, but the speed at which this is happening is unclear. 

Meanwhile, SAGE today published its weekly estimate of the R rate and said the speed of spread has dropped. The Government’s scientific advisers put the ranges for the UK and England at 1.1 to 1.3, down from 1.2 to 1.4 last week. They said, however: ‘SAGE is almost certain that the epidemic continues to grow rapidly across the country.’

Numbers of people being admitted to hospital and dying of coronavirus continue to rise rapidly, with an average of 230 deaths per day now being announced and 10,308 people in hospital with Covid-19, increasing by more than 1,000 per day. 

These will keep increasing for the coming weeks and months even if cases start to slow down or even fall, officials say, because hospitalisations and deaths are ‘baked in’ by infections that happen two to three weeks earlier.

One statistician not involved with any of the predictions – Professor James Naismith, from the University of Oxford – said there were ‘uncertainties’ in all of them, meaning no one number was correct. He added: ‘We can be almost certain that we will see an increase in the number of deaths per day from Covid-19 over the next few weeks.’

There are stringent infection control measures in place in hospitals and care homes now — to avoid a repeat of the catastrophe of the first wave — which means the vast majority of these tests come back negative.

The rest of the daily tests are given to people who report having symptoms, or to close contacts of confirmed cases.

Studies like REACT-1 and the Office for National Statistics’ surveillance programmes, however, send tests to randomly selected households regardless of symptoms, which helps paint a more accurate picture of the crisis in its current state.

Projection of 4,000 deaths per day based on outdated estimates 

Another questionable claim made in Saturday’s briefing was a ‘worst-case scenario’ that 4,000 people could be dying from coronavirus by next month. 

The shocking figure was presented by chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance in Saturday’s TV briefing where Mr Johnson announced the UK’s second lockdown.

But there are concerns that it’s out of date and inaccurate, with SAGE accused of ‘misleading’ the public and MPs by cherry-picking the scariest data.

Professor Carl Heneghan, of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at the University of Oxford, said he ‘cannot understand why they have used this data’.

The forecast could be four or five times too high, he said, because it is based on there being an average 1,000 deaths per day in the UK right now. In reality the daily average was 182 per day October 22 and 28, according to Department of Health data.

The number, which appeared as the worst case on a graph with three other possible scenarios, was created by statisticians at the University of Cambridge and Public Health England who have since revised their numbers and lowered the possible numbers of deaths. The team’s forecasts are not published online, like some of their other work, but are sent directly to SPI-M, a sub-group of SAGE, to do with it what they choose.

A potential 4,000 fatalities per day if there are no changes to restrictions was almost twice as high as the second worst case, which put them at a touch higher than 2,000 per day. 

The lowest estimates in the no-action scenario estimated deaths at just below 2,000 per day, and all were higher than the peak in the first wave, when the most deaths were recorded on April 8 (1,073).

Professor Heneghan told The Telegraph: ‘Our job as scientists is to reflect the evidence and the uncertainties and to provide the latest estimates.

‘I cannot understand why they have used this data, when there are far more up-to-date forecasts from Cambridge that they could have accessed, which show something very different.’ 

In a blog post, Professor Heneghan and Dr Dan Howdon, a medical researcher at the University of Leeds, explained that the project that created the 4,000-per-day estimate has been update twice since and downgraded the numbers.

It had been based on an estimate of 1,000 deaths per day on November 1, but there were really only 162 announced yesterday.

Alternative scenarios on Sir Patrick’s graph put the November 1 deaths at 486, 266 and 234 – all significantly lower.

And, Professor Heneghan and Dr Howdon pointed out, the Cambridge forecast has been update more than once since the version that was used in the meeting.

They wrote: ‘Since the first autumn update on October 12, two subsequent updates have substantially revised down the estimated number of deaths. 

‘The October 12 update projected 588 deaths on October 30, and updates since have revised this down to 324 (October 21 for the 31st) and most recently 241 (October 28 for the 5 November). 

‘This most recent update goes up to 15 November, when 497 deaths are projected.’

The graph that the chief scientific adviser presented in the briefing showed that deaths could peak in late December, but the updated model does not go that far into the future.

The trajectory, however, puts deaths at only a quarter as high as the 4,000-per-day forecast.

Professor Heneghan said, therefore, that the 4,000-per-day could be as much as five times too many and that more accurate, lower estimates were available before the briefing was held on Saturday.

He told The Telegraph: ‘I’m deeply concerned about how the data is being presented so that politicians can make decisions. 

This slide presented on live TV on Saturday shows a projection of deaths hitting 4,000 per day by the end of December (blue line) but experts say they are 'concerned' about the decision to include this because it is based on old data that has since been updated

This slide presented on live TV on Saturday shows a projection of deaths hitting 4,000 per day by the end of December (blue line) but experts say they are ‘concerned’ about the decision to include this because it is based on old data that has since been updated

BUT HOW BUSY ARE NHS HOSPITALS?

In October the number of people in English hospitals with Covid-19 soared almost five-fold from 1,995 on the first of the month to 9,213 on the 31st, Department of Health data shows.

And Mr Johnson and his advisers warned in Saturday’s briefing that admissions are on track to exceed levels seen in the spring crisis within weeks, heading for more than 30,000 inpatients by the end of November and more than 4,000 new admissions per day in the first week of December.

But how much capacity hospitals actually have to cope with a surge in Covid-19 patients is not clear.  

NHS England’s most up-to-date occupancy figures show 113,000 hospital beds were taken up across the country on October 1 — but just 2,000 of these were patients who had tested positive for Covid-19.

The number of Covid-19 patients being admitted to hospital has since spiralled – with 9,000 beds in England taken up by the infected on October 31.

But health chiefs have never released figures detailing exactly how busy the NHS is, or was, throughout the course of the pandemic.

MailOnline revealed at the height of the first wave in April that Covid-19 patients never made up more than 30 per cent of the total beds occupied. Just under 19,000 patients out of 70,000 in hospitals at that time had Covid-19. 

But it is not clear how many more beds could have been used by the NHS if it needed them, with thousands made available in Nightingale hospitals and deals to rent beds on with private wards.

Tens of thousands of beds were left empty and unused during the peak of the first wave after hospitals turfed out patients to make room for an overwhelming surge in Covid-19 patients that never fully materialised.

In April the Health Service Journal reported that 41 per cent of NHS hospital beds were empty on the weekend of April 11-12 — around 37,500 out of a possible 91,600.  

And the NHS has kept hold of the thousands of beds it commandeered to fight off the first wave, with nine make-shift Nightingale facilities on standby to help cope with a second surge of Covid-19, meaning capacity has been upgraded past its usual 110,000. 

NHS England figures show hospitals across the country were 92 per cent full last December, with 93,442 beds out of 101,598 taken up by patients needing overnight care, on average. 

Winter always increases pressure on hospitals because flu is in circulation, and it is not clear whether some beds will have to be closed in order to segregate patients onto Covid and non-Covid wards.

‘It is a fast-changing situation, which is very different in different regions, and it concerns me that MPs who are about to go to a vote are not getting the full picture.’

Conservative MPs said they were worried the forecasts were ‘misleading’.

David Davis told the newspaper: ‘The first responsibility of the scientific advisers to the Government is to give the truth to the public and not to cherry-pick the data.

‘This is a fairly major error on their part if they’ve used old data which effectively misleads the public.’ 

And Steve Baker added: ‘This evidence does appear to indicate that the death models are already wrong and by quite a considerable margin.’ 

Questions were first raised yesterday over the dossier that helped tip England into lockdown with its grim prediction of 4,000 deaths a day.

The projection by Cambridge University in conjunction with Public Health England (PHE) is thought to have drastically shifted Downing Street‘s thinking. 

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Paperwork unearthed by the Mail shows the Cambridge model uses a timeframe twice as long as the official death toll every day by PHE.

While PHE records deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid test, Cambridge’s ‘nowcast and forecast’, on which the Downing Street data was based, collates deaths within 60 days of a positive result, giving them double the sample size.

This could account for why the Cambridge/PHE death rate was so much higher than the others. No one was available from Cambridge to comment last night. 

The Department of Health also refused to release the official report.

But last night PHE said their model is one of ‘many’ that is sent in to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) and that these models can be ‘wide-ranging’.

Of the many slides presented at the press conference, the most startling was a graph entitled ‘England daily deaths if no changes in policy or behaviour’.

It revealed forecasts from institutions including Imperial College London, Warwick University, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Cambridge.

The Cambridge projection suggested England’s daily death toll could reach 4,000 during the height of winter – many more than at the peak of the first wave.

Imperial predicted around 2,700 deaths a day and other institutions gave estimates below 2,000. 

They all indicated that the UK was on course for a higher death toll than any predicted in reasonable worst-case scenario planning.

The Cambridge and PHE estimation far exceeded the 800 deaths a day forecast from the Sage expert committee.

It is understood these models were in a document presented to Downing Street by scientific advisers last week, and contributed to the lockdown.

Tory MP Charles Walker said: ‘If it is the case that SAGE are not making this document public, it is extraordinary given that SAGE scientists fall over themselves to get on TV and radio to talk about their work and the importance of putting the UK into a deep freeze.

‘All information that is being used to support the lockdown should be put into the public domain as a matter of course and duty.’

During the press conference on Saturday, Sir Patrick Vallance said: ‘Different groups come up with different answers depending on their models, but what is clear from all of them, in terms of deaths over the winter, there is the potential for this to be twice as bad or more compared to the first wave.’

Other scientists have provided more conservative estimates. James Naismith, director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute and professor of structural biology at Oxford University, said: ‘We do not know yet how many infections per day have occurred this week that has just ended, but it is very likely to be above 60,000 infections per day.

‘Based on those figures, we should expect and not be surprised to see a rise in deaths to around 500 per day over the next three weeks until we start to see the new measures take effect.’

Yesterday the Government said a further 162 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19, bringing the total to 46,717.

 

Second lockdown will be the ‘final death blow’ for thousands of British businesses, industry leaders warn as leading economist predicts new measures will cost £1.8billion per day

A second lockdown will be the ‘final death blow’ for thousands of British businesses, industry leaders warned last night.

As one leading economist predicted the lockdown will cost the UK £1.8billion per day, bosses of businesses from Waterstones to Rocco Forte Hotels lashed out at the ‘disastrous’ restrictions which could devastate the High Street.

Economist Douglas McWilliams, founder of the Centre for Economics and Business Research, said shutting the country down for at least a month from Thursday will wipe £1.8billion off the value of the economy for every day it lasts.

He forecasts the gloom to push into next year, meaning the UK’s coronavirus recession is likely to last until the spring.

As Christmas parties are cancelled and High Streets are closed, businesses and consumers are expected to slash their spending. This will have a knock-on effect on the public purse as VAT takings slump.

Shoppers queue outside Ikea in Batley, West Yorkshire, on Sunday - one day after new national lockdown measures were announced which will come into place from Thursday

Shoppers queue outside Ikea in Batley, West Yorkshire, on Sunday – one day after new national lockdown measures were announced which will come into place from Thursday

A queue of shoppers snaked along a road outside a Costco in Watford on Sunday

A queue of shoppers snaked along a road outside a Costco in Watford on Sunday

A Costco shopper in Birmingham filled his trolley to the brim with toilet roll, cans and various other groceries

A Costco shopper in Birmingham filled his trolley to the brim with toilet roll, cans and various other groceries

And as more businesses struggle to make ends meet and teeter on the brink of collapse, job losses are expected to rise despite the extension of the furlough scheme.

Rishi was reluctant to accept shutdown … but he did NOT threaten to resign 

Rishi Sunak was reluctant to agree to the second national lockdown in light of the threat to the economy and the huge £5billion cost of furlough, sources said last night.

The Chancellor was one of those at the Downing Street meeting on Friday which decided to go ahead with new restrictive measures.

A source said there was a ‘collective decision’ to back a second lockdown, and that Mr Sunak ‘accepted it’ – and he did not threaten to resign, as some whispers around Westminster were suggesting yesterday.

‘There was a presentation from the scientists,’ the source said. ‘The data was put to them and there wasn’t a great deal to say.’ Boris Johnson and Mr Sunak had been hoping to avoid a second lockdown, over fears of its devastating impact on business and jobs.

But the figures presented to them – predicting that the NHS would be overwhelmed – were so stark that it was not possible to argue against. The fact that France and Germany had both recently embarked on national lockdowns also made it hard not to go along with the recommendations.

Mr Sunak agreed that the full furlough scheme, worth 80 per cent of wages, will be reinstated for the duration of the second lockdown. This could cost the taxpayer as much as £5billion over the next month. But there are fears the cost will rise if, as expected, the lockdown drags on.

This will blow a hole in household finances, according to accountancy firm EY, which is expecting banks to increase the number of loans they have to write off as customers fail to meet repayments.

Sir Rocco Forte, chairman of Rocco Forte Hotels, said: ‘The hospitality industry and the whole entertainment industry is already on its knees and this is the final death blow.

‘You can have furlough and other schemes which reduce the business outgoings, but if you have no income you can’t survive. It’s a never-ending nightmare – the second lockdown is a disaster.’

The restrictions come as restaurants and pubs were gearing up for the Christmas rush in an effort to make back some of the income they had lost over spring and summer. Des Gunewardena, co-founder of restaurant chain D&D London which runs venues such as Bluebird Chelsea, said: ‘December is an absolutely crucial month for our business. It’s really important that the Government does everything they can to get cases under control so we can open up for four weeks.’

John O’Reilly, chief executive of Rank Group which owns 77 Mecca bingo halls and 51 Grosvenor casinos, added: ‘Hospitality businesses like ours are forced to lean into another month of misery after a series of setbacks and restrictions.’

Retailers are also gearing up for a ‘catastrophic’ Christmas as shoppers shun the High Street.

James Daunt, chief executive of Waterstones, said: ‘In the longer term I’m really worried about what the High Street we’re on will look like in the spring.

‘We really need the independent and smaller retailers around us to make up the ecosystem.’

The number of visitors across all brick-and-mortar shops is expected to plunge by 62 per cent on last year between November 22 and December 26, according to data company Springboard.

High Streets will be hit harder than other locations, such as shopping centres and retail parks, with an 87 per cent drop in visitors.

Despite the lockdown being due to end on December 2, Springboard thinks shoppers will be trying to save money and will prefer to shop online.

Diane Wehrle, of Springboard, said the measures were ‘catastrophic for the retail industry’. She said: ‘Most consumers are likely to have completed a vast amount of shopping online in advance and may well have fears of returning to brick-and-mortar stores.’

The anger from business leaders came as the CEBR warned that the second wave of coronavirus cases could slash 5 to 10 per cent off economies in the Western world every month that restrictions last.

Mr McWilliams said: ‘Losing a lot of Christmas-related spending will have a distinct impact since December retail sales are about 50 per cent higher than the monthly average.’

A Covid-19 testing site in Leicester, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new national lockdown will come into force in England next week

A Covid-19 testing site in Leicester, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new national lockdown will come into force in England next week

Shelves are emptied of toilet rolls at a Tesco store in Grimsby as swathes of customers race to bulk-buy household essentials on Sunday

Shelves are emptied of toilet rolls at a Tesco store in Grimsby as swathes of customers race to bulk-buy household essentials on Sunday

And as unemployment bites, many British households will struggle to make ends meet, according to EY.

The firm predicts banks will have to write off 2.5 per cent of loans to consumers next year – up from 1.3 per cent this year and a near-decade high.

Mark Littlewood, of think-tank the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: ‘We have now reached the point – in terms of both our health and our wealth – where the cure is worse than the disease.’

Timeline of the 24 hours that shaped lockdown 2.0: How leak of plans for a new four-week shutdown in November and the subsequent political chaos forced Boris Johnson into action – and caused havoc on Strictly Come Dancing

Here is how the bombshell period in coronavirus politics played out:

Friday, October 31

PM Boris Johnson was given hard facts about real people in hospital beds, and the debate was effectively over

2pm: Sir Patrick Vallance underlines SAGE’s call for a national lockdown at a briefing with reporters, saying it is ‘not too late to save Christmas’

He urges the closure of all pubs and restaurants and venues where households mix indoors. 

It comes after a Government-led study by Imperial College London had been published showing that nearly 100,000 people in the UK are getting infected with Covid-19 every day.

Heat maps were presented at the press conference showing that the infections were spreading among older age groups

Heat maps were presented at the press conference showing that the infections were spreading among older age groups

The REACT-1 project – which has been swabbing tens of thousands of people every week – estimated there were around 96,000 people getting infected every day in England by October 25.

French President Emmanuel Macron  has already announced a second national lockdown until the end of November and German Chancellor Angela Merkel also announces a ‘lockdown lite’ which  is less severe but includes the closure of restaurants, gyms and theatres. 

3pm: Papers are released online from a SAGE meeting which show that advisers warned ministers on October 14 that the UK could be headed for a situation more serious than the scientists’ ‘worst case scenario’.  

They say ‘we are breaching the number of infections and hospital admissions in the Reasonable Worst Case planning scenario’ and the outlook for Covid-19’s future spread was ‘concerning’ if no action was taken.

The SAGE papers warn that modelling suggests up to 74,000 people a day could be becoming infected in England alone, far beyond the worst case scenario. 

3.30pm: The all-powerful Covid Quad committee, which has taken all the key strategic decisions during the pandemic, met in the Cabinet Office on Friday, along with 20 experts.

Boris Johnson, chairing the committee meeting, fought what one source called a ‘valiant battle’ to keep the country open, ‘arguing with himself’ and endorsing many of his Chancellor’s hawkish warnings about the economic carnage it would entail. 

Every time Health Secretary Matt Hancock made his arguments in favour of the lockdown, he was supported by fellow ‘dove’ Mr Gove. 

Both Ministers were emboldened by France and Germany’s move into full lockdown. 

The Prime Minister continued to back his Chancellor, until a chilling submission by Sir Simon Stevens, the head of the NHS, which effectively condemned the country to another month of confinement. 

EARLY EVENING: Downing Street is informed that ITV political editor Robert Peston has received a ‘read-out of the whole meeting’, according to the Times.

The Prime Minister continued to back Rishi Sunak's hopes of keeping the economy open until a chilling submission by Sir Simon Stevens, the head of the NHS, which effectively condemned the country to another month of confinement.

The Prime Minister continued to back Rishi Sunak’s hopes of keeping the economy open until a chilling submission by Sir Simon Stevens, the head of the NHS, which effectively condemned the country to another month of confinement.

 

10.30PM: No10’s plans to shut-down England for at least a month have also been leaked to the Daily Mail and are revealed when the first edition of Saturday’s paper drops.

The Mail learns that SAGE told ministers Covid-19 is spreading ‘significantly’ faster than even their original ‘worst-case scenario’ prediction.   

Downing Street is furious to read details of the lockdown in the first editions of the Saturday newspapers, hours after the decision had been taken by Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak, Michael Gove and Matt Hancock. 

The leak means that the shutdown was on the front pages before the rest of the Cabinet had been told and sparks widespread anger among politicians and business leaders.

Saturday, October 31

7AM: BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg reveals some of the information shown to the quad involves daily deaths could top 4,000

11am: Boris Johnson calls an unscheduled Cabinet briefing to update furious ministers on his plans. With just hours to go he also calls a hastily arranged live television press conference for 4pm to brief the nation about his plans.

11am: Downing Street launches an investigation to find the source of the story, amid reports that the Government had wanted to keep the plan quiet until Monday. 

Multiple Government sources sought to pin the blame on Matt Hancock by accusing him of trying to ‘bump’ the Prime Minister into announcing the lockdown before he could have second thoughts. The Health Secretary strenuously denied the claims. 

However, other sources pointed the finger at Mr Gove – the other ‘dove’ in the quad – and suggested that Mr Hancock was being made the ‘fall guy’ for the leak.

Both ministers have flatly denied the allegation. 

1.30pm: Cabinet meets virtually, with the PM dialling in from Downing Street. It lasts more than an hour

2.30pm: The press conference is pushed back to 5pm, suggesting that the lockdown plans are still being hammered out and argued over by ministers.

3:40pm: Mr Peston tweets a summary of the measures Mr Johnson will be announcing at the press conference, following the Cabinet meeting.

3.58pm: The BBC’s Nick Eardly reveals similar details about what is going to be announced.  

4.50PM: The press conference is pushed back to 6.30pm.

5PM: It emerges that Mr Johnson has apologised to Conservative MPs and tells them that he will launch an inquiry to find the ‘culprit’ who leaked details of the new lockdown before his announcement.   

 Mr Johnson sends a message to Conservative MPs on WhatsApp to apologise and warn there are ‘no easy short term options’. ‘Folks – so sorry that you’ve had to hear about all this from the newspapers today,’ he wrote.

‘Let me assure you that the leak was not a No10 briefing and indeed we have launched an inquiry to catch the culprit. I had hoped to make the announcement in parliament on Monday but to avoid any further uncertainty I’ll now do a press conference from Downing Street this evening.

‘My team will make sure you have access to all the data and briefing from scientists you need in the coming days. Please speak to your whip if you have anything to feed in. 

‘I assure you we are doing what we believe is best for the country and to ensure that the NHS is not overwhelmed in a way that could cost many thousands of lives.

‘There is a clear way out of this, with better medication and rapid testing – and the genuine prospect of a vaccine. Our country will recover well. But I am afraid there are no easy short term options. Best Boris.’ 

6:45PM: Boris Johnson, joined by Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Adviser Professor Patrice Vallance, finally fronts the delayed press conference.

Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty

Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty

The press conference runs for just under half an hour, cutting into the broadcast of the latest Strictly Come Dancing episode.

The broadcasters had already axed Little Mix’s talent show for a 4pm address, and when it was moved back to 5pm, a half-hour news special was put in at 4.30pm, hosted by Reeta Chakrabarti.

However, she was still presenting the programme at 7.13pm, so Mastermind was also axed.

7.14PM: Strictly contestants and production staff find out it was still going on air just seconds before the network started playing the introduction music at around 7.14pm – four minutes after the time it was originally scheduled to begin.

The press conference runs for just under half an hour, cutting into the broadcast of the latest Strictly Come Dancing episode

The press conference runs for just under half an hour, cutting into the broadcast of the latest Strictly Come Dancing episode

Sources on the show said that at one point it was expected that the show would be moved to a later day as no information had come from the scheduling department.

One said last night: ‘We had no idea what was going on. The time kept getting away from us.

‘It was total chaos. There were phone calls being made back and forth, but nobody knew what Boris and his team were doing so everyone on the Strictly team was left hanging. You can imagine the nerves backstage among the dancers.’

Fans on Twitter also poked fun at the situation. Broadcaster Matt Chorley wrote: ‘Of all the highly dangerous things this Government has done, f***ing about with the start of Strictly seems the most risky.’     

SATURDAY EVENING: 

Tory backbench lockdown hawks vent their anger at the new announcement. 

Sir Robert Syms, an ex-Tory whip, suggested that No10 had not properly ‘audited progress’ made by the three-tier system which sees restrictions with varying degrees of severity placed on individual regions.

Sir Robert tweeted: ‘I am open to more measures [but] we have a regional approach which we have not given time to work. If we need to tweak it, fine, let’s measure what works and discard what does not. At the moment the Government is getting bounced into a change before we have audited progress.’

Desmond Swayne, the Conservative MP for New Forest West, described the move as ‘disastrous’ and accused Cabinet ministers of behaving like ‘headless chickens’.  

Mr Swayne said: ‘Lockdowns make everyone poorer and poor people even poorer. I fear more people will die sooner than they would have as a consequence of the decision.

‘In a bad flu season 80,000 people die, but we don’t behave like headless chickens.’ 

Sir Charles Walker, the vice-chairman of the 1922 Committee, told the BBC: ‘There has to be another way of doing this. If you want first world public services, you need a first world economy.’



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