CHILDREN returning to schools is a “national priority” despite the new lockdown rules, Boris Johnson has claimed.
The Prime Minister today insisted kids would still be going back as planned despite the new lockdown measures announced for Greater Manchester, parts of East Lancashire and parts of West Yorkshire.
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The sudden new rules – which mean that people can still go to work and even visit shops and cafes but cannot go inside other homes – have left the public reeling.
Speaking from Downing Street this afternoon, the PM insisted kids would still be returning in England this September.
He said: “Getting our children back into school on the 1st of September, 11th of August they are going back in Scotland.
“That is a good thing, and should be a national priority, and something we aim to deliver.
“It’s the right thing for children, they can be educated in a safe covid secure way, we should be getting them back to school.”
His comments were backed by the Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty who also admitted there was a “limit” to what could be done.
He said: “We have to be realistic about this. The idea we can open up everything and keep the virus is under control is clearly wrong.
“People are very clear that schools are an absolute priority for the welfare of children.”
It comes as the PM hit the brakes on easing the coronavirus lockdown.
Boris today vowed he wouldn’t “stand by and allow the virus to cause more pain and heartache in this country”.
And in a dramatic clamp down to stop the spread of the bug, he announced that most of the measures which were to be lifted tomorrow would now be put on ice for two weeks.
Boris said that new ONS figures showed 4,900 new cases every day – signalling the “first rise since the end of May”.
He explained this was an increase on 3,000 new cases everyday on July 14 and 2,000 new cases at the end of June.
1 in 1,500 Brits now have the virus, compared to 1 in 1,800 on July 15.
Speaking from Downing Street today, the PM said Brits needed to remain vigilant, saying: “With those numbers creeping up, our assessment is that we should now squeeze that brake pedal in order to keep the virus under control.
“We must keep our focus and we can’t be complacent.”
Boris Johnson today announced:
- The UK recorded its first rise in coronavirus cases since the end of May
- Leisure centres like skating rinks and bowling alleys that had expected to reopen tomorrow will now have to wait another two weeks at least
- Brits will have to wear a face mask in cinemas
- Sports fans will not be allowed to attend live events
- Wedding receptions of up to 30 people will not be permitted
- The national pause on shielding for vulnerable Brits WILL go ahead from tomorrow
As part of the dramatic halt, the reopening of leisure centres including skating rinks, casinos and bowling alleys has now been pushed back along with small wedding receptions.
Socially-distanced theatres and music venues had also been expected to open but this was also put on hold until at least August 15 while Brits will now have to wear a face mask in cinemas.
And Boris added: “I know that the steps we are taking will be a real blow to many people, to everyone whose wedding plans have been disrupted or who cannot now celebrate Eid in the way that they would wish.
“And I’m really, really sorry about that but we cannot simply take the risk.”
Full list of businesses that were due to reopen from August 1
BACK in July, the Prime Minister announced that more businesses would be allowed to reopen from August 1, as long as the infection rate remained low.
But this is now unlikely due to a spike in infections across the UK.
Businesses that were due to reopen from August 1:
- Bowling alleys
- Leisure centres
- Ice-skating rinks
- Facial treatments at beauty salons
- Theatres, music halls and other venues can open for socially distanced audiences
Businesses than can reopen from October:
- Sports stadiums welcome back fans
- Conferences can go ahead
- Strip clubs
Businesses that must stay closed:
- Nightclubs, dance halls, discotheques
- Sexual entertainment venues and hostess bars
- Indoor play areas, including soft-play areas
Further guidance is expected to be published in the coming days.
The move comes after the Office for National Statistics today revealed the number of coronavirus cases had increased with 35,700 people currently infected with the bug.
The new stats suggest around 4,200 new cases were recorded per day through July 20 to July 26.
Boris said that the bombshell newcoronavirus rules announced last night as “targeted measures” to control the bug.
Brits had been left confused after 4.5million people were issued with fresh lockdown demands with just three hours’ notice.
One local wrote last night pointed out the confusing nature of the guidelines, saying it was “utter shambles” – adding that despite home visits being banned, “you’re still allowed to work, public transport, the pub, the leisure centres, the hairdressers, the parks.”
Another added: “So I can’t visit family in their house or garden but I can go to a pub, for a meal or shopping or use public transport with complete strangers?”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock himself today appeared muddled by the new guidelines, suggesting on BBC Breakfast that households in the lockdown area could visit those outside of the impacted regions – contradicting the official advice.
According to the guidelines published this morning, it is illegal for people who are in the affected region to visit other homes regardless of whether it is in or out of the restricted area.
About 4.5million people will be affected by the new lockdown rules – which are expected to be subject to a weekly review.
What the new rules mean:
- You can go to the pub or a restaurant, but only with your household/bubble
- You can only be with members of your household or bubble in your home or garden
- You can celebrate Eid and go to a place of worship but only if you follow social distancing – celebrations with members outside your household cannot take place in your home or garden
- You can go on holiday but only with members of your household or bubble
The affected areas include all of the 2.8million residents of Greater Manchester, as well as the Lancashire towns of Blackburn, Burnley, Hyndburn, Pendle and Rossendale.
West Yorkshire, Bradford, Calderdale and Kirklees were also hit.
Leicester was also included in the households ban, but pubs, restaurants and hairdressers will reopen on Monday. However, leisure centres, gyms and pools will remain closed.
Does my household include close family members?
Your household – as defined in law – is only the people you live with.
What will be illegal?
It will be illegal for people who do not live together to meet in a private home or garden, except for limited exceptions to be set out in law. You should not host or visit people you do not live with, unless they are in your support bubble. If you live in the affected areas, you should not visit someone’s home or garden regardless of whether this is in or outside of the restricted area.
Can I still meet indoors with people in my support bubble?
Yes. Where people from single adult households (people who live alone or single parents with dependent children aged under 18) have formed a support bubble with another household, they can continue to visit each other, stay overnight, and visit other public places as if they were one household.
Can I still meet people outdoors?
In line with the national guidance, you can continue to meet in public outdoor spaces in groups of no more than six people, unless the group includes only people from two households. You cannot meet people you do not live within a private garden.
At all times, you should socially distance from people you do not live with – unless they are in your support bubble.
I live in this area. Can I still meet with my family and friends to celebrate Eid?
Due to higher rates of infection, if you live in this area you should not host or visit friends and family in each other’s homes or gardens. It will shortly be illegal to do so, unless specific exemptions apply. You also should not meet friends and family in other venues – including restaurants or cafes.
Up to two households, or six people from any number of households may meet outdoors (excluding people’s gardens) where there is a lower risk of infection. If you do so, you should still socially distance from those you do not live with, and avoid physical contact.
You may attend a mosque or other place or worship, where Covid-19 Secure guidance applies, but you must socially distance from people outside of your household. This means maintaining a distance of 2 metres, or 1 metre with mitigations (such as wearing face coverings). We recommend at this time that, if possible, prayer/religious services take place outdoors.
Can I still go to work in this area?
Yes. People living inside and outside of this area can continue to travel in and out for work. Workplaces must implement Covid-19 Secure guidance.
I live in this area. Can I still go to cafes, restaurants, the gym and other public places?
Yes. But you should only go with members of your own household – even if you are going outside of the restricted area.
I live in the area. Can people from outside of the lockdown area visit me at my house?
No. This will be illegal.
Do I still have to shield if I live in this area?
Clinically extremely vulnerable people will no longer have to follow the shielding guidance from the 1 August, unless they live in Blackburn with Darwen in the North West and other local affected areas across England where shielding continues.
Can I visit a care home?
You should not visit friends or family in care homes, other than in exceptional circumstances. Care homes should restrict visits to these circumstances.
Can I still have my wedding if it’s in the lockdown area?
Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies in these areas can still go ahead. No more than 30 people should attend a marriage or civil partnership, where this can be safely accommodated with social distancing in a COVID-19 secure venue. Further guidance can be found here.
Can I travel outside of the lockdown area to attend a wedding ceremony?
Can I travel into the lockdown area to attend a wedding ceremony?
Yes. Weddings should be limited to no more than 30 people and subject to COVID-19 Secure guidelines. People living outside the lockdown areas may travel into the areas to attend a wedding, but should not go into a private home or garden.
Can I still visit a place of worship in the lockdown area?
Yes, but you must socially distance from people outside of your household. This means maintaining a distance of 2 metres, or 1 metre with mitigations (e.g. face coverings). We recommend at this time that if possible prayer/religious services take place outdoors.
Can funerals still take place in the lockdown areas?
Yes. Funerals should be limited to no more than 30 people and subject to COVID-19 Secure guidelines. People living outside the lockdown areas may travel into the areas to attend a funeral.
Can I holiday in the lockdown area, or visit shops, leisure facilities, or cafes in it?
Yes. However, you must avoid socialising with people indoors when doing so.
Can I travel in a car with someone I do not live with?
You should try not to share a vehicle with those outside your household or social bubble.
And others flagged concerns that the lockdown had been brought in just as Eid celebrations began today.
The Muslim Council of Britain’s secretary general, Harun Khan, criticised the way the announcement was made, saying: “With the first day of Eid being today, for Muslims in the affected areas, it is like being told they cannot visit family and friends for Christmas on Christmas Eve itself.
“Whilst the safety of communities is of paramount importance, as has remained the case from the very outset of this crisis, so is effective communication delivered in a timely fashion.
“Failure to communicate makes it difficult for communities across the country to continue working together to minimise the spread of the virus, whilst eroding trust in the ability of authorities to steer our course as we tackle the Covid-19 crisis.”
Baroness Sayeeda Warsi today slammed the “lack of clarity” over the message on Good Morning Britain, saying she had received calls up to 1am overnight by confused members of the community.
And Health Secretary Matt Hancock this morning was left trying to defend the move, saying the move had been “absolutely necessary”.
Speaking to Sky News, he said the new rules were “crystal clear”, saying the test and trace data had shown “most of the transmission is happening between households.
He added: “Everyone can see that the problem with this virus is it thrives on the social contact that makes life worth living.”
The Health Secretary had last night said he was introducing the new measures with a “heavy heart” – tweeting the announcement at 9.16pm with details published two hours later before the full guidelines were released this morning.
When asked about the Islamic celebration of Eid, he said his “heart goes out” to the community, adding: “Unfortunately this change does mean that people won’t be able to get together in their houses, in their gardens.
“But we are allowing mosques and other religious places to stay open because they’ve done so much work to allow for Covid-secure celebration and worship.”
Labour leader Keir Starmer said he would not argue with local action to reduce the transmission of the virus but said: “Announcing measures affecting potentially millions of people late at night on Twitter is a new low for the government’s communications during this crisis.”
He added: “For all the bluster, government has failed to deliver a functioning track and trace system that would spot local flare ups like these.”
THE government introduced new guidelines for parts of England last night – just three hours before they came into force.
So how did the last 24 hours unfold?
Thursday July 30
1pm: News of a possible announcement about Leicester’s lockdown is circulated with political reporters, expected to be held about 3pm
3.30pm: News of the announcement on Leicester’s lockdown is pushed back to 5pm
6pm: The announcement about Leicester’s lockdown was then pushed back to 8pm before finally being pulled
9.16pm: Matt Hancock speaks on Sky News about the new lockdown rules
9.16pm: Hancock tweets that from “midnight tonight” households in certain regions would not be able to meet inside
10.49pm: Andy Burnham, Manchester Mayor, tweets out guidance he is aware of
11.19pm: Initial guidance over new rules sent to media
Friday July 31
6.55am: Full lockdown guidance is issued on government website
Manchester mayor Andy Burnham defended the sudden introduction of the new guidelines, saying the virus could move “quickly”.
Speaking on Good Morning Britain today, he said: “The truth of the matter is the pub is a more regulated environment, as is public transport where people are supposed to wear face masks.
“The home is a less regulated.”
Leicester Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby said: “A lot of people are hoping that they can grab a bit of time to go for a summer holiday, and we’re not sure here in Leicester whether that’s going to be permitted or not.”