England could face stringent national lockdown restrictions as early as next week under new plans being considered by the Prime Minister, it has been reported.
Boris Johnson is said to be planning new measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 following a spike in positive cases in recent weeks.
He will announce the restrictions at a press conference on Monday, according to The Times.
A new national lockdown could see everything closed except essential shops and schools, nurseries and universities.
The restrictions could be introduced as early as Wednesday and remain in place until December 1, the newspaper reported.
But as recently as yesterday morning, senior Government figures were ruling out harsher restrictions.
Here we take a look at all the times the Government has ruled out a second national lockdown.
SAGE – the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies – called for the government to consider an urgent package of measures, including a circuit breaker lockdown.
They also suggested the introduction of a ban on indoor meetings with people from other households, unless part of a support bubble.
However, this did not emerge and was not reported on until a few weeks later.
Boris Johnson announced a three-tier system, dividing England in areas with medium (Tier 1), high (Tier 2) or very high (Tier 3) coronavirus alert levels.
Areas classed as medium risk are subject to the same national measures that were introduced across England earlier – including a 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants and a ban on most gatherings of more than six people.
Areas categorised as high risk have restrictions on household mixing indoors while the rule of six continues to apply outdoors.
People must not meet socially with friends and family indoors in any setting unless they live with them or have formed a support bubble with them.
People living in Tier 3 areas are advised against overnight stays in other parts of the UK and should avoid travel where possible in and out of the area, unless it is for work, education or caring responsibilities.
In these areas, social mixing is banned both indoors and in private gardens, while pubs and bars must close unless they can operate as a restaurant.
When announcing the three-tier system, the Prime Minister also ruled out the idea of a full national lockdown, saying: “Of course there are those who say that on that logic we should go back into a full national lockdown of indefinite duration, closing schools and businesses, telling people again to stay at home as we did in March, once again shuttering our lives and our society.
“I do not believe that would be the right course.
“We would not only be depriving our children of their education, we would do such damage to our economy as to erode our long term ability to fund the NHS and other crucial public services.”
Late that night, it emerged SAGE had called for a circuit breaker lockdown on September 21.
Labour leader Keir Starmer urged the Prime Minister to impose a two to three-week circuit breaker lockdown after SAGE’s recommendations emerged.
That day, a “senior government source” told journalists: “Keir Starmer is a shameless opportunist playing political games in the middle of a global pandemic.
“He says he wants a national lockdown but he’s refusing to back targeted restrictions in areas that need them most.”
SAGE received advice that the virus had started spreading more quickly than what they thought would be the “worst case scenario” – which predicted 85,000 new coronavirus-related deaths by the end of winter.
Sir Keir Starmer called for a circuit breaker during Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons, but Mr Johnson refused it.
He said: “The whole point is to seize this moment now to avoid the misery of another national lockdown, into which he wants to go headlong, by delivering a regional solution.
“Opportunism is, I am afraid, the name of the game for the party opposite, because they backed the rule of six – or he backed the rule of six – and then refused to vote for it.
“I think at three o’clock, the Shadow Health spokesman said that a national lockdown would be “disastrous”; at five o’clock, he was calling for it.
“Let us go back to the approach that he was supporting on Monday.
“Let us try to avoid the misery of another national lockdown, which he would want to impose, as I say, in a headlong way.”
On the same day, Chancellor Rishi Sunak also ruled out the option of a second national lockdown over fears it would irreparably damage the economy.
He said: “We must prevent the strain on our NHS from becoming unbearable, but we must also acknowledge the stark reality of the economic and social impacts of another national lockdown.
“The costs of doing that are not abstract, they are real: they can be counted in jobs lost, businesses closed and children’s educations harmed; they can be measured in the permanent damage done to our economy, which will undermine our long-term ability to fund our NHS and our valued public services; and they can be measured in the increase in long-term health conditions that unemployment causes.”
Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham, also called for a circuit breaker and said he would prefer that to Tier 3 restrictions being introduced in Manchester.
During a press conference, Boris Johnson said he “cannot rule anything out”, but repeated he wanted to avoid a national lockdown.
He said: “So while I cannot rule anything out, if at all possible I want to avoid another national lockdown, with the damaging health, economic and social effects it would have.”
Southern Tory MPs write to Andy Burnham attacking his calls for a national circuit-breaker.
They said: “It does not make sense to shut down the whole country when the virus is spiking in particular locations.”
The Mayor of Greater Manchester called for a Commons vote to “break the impasse” over lockdowns following talks with government advisers as tensions soared over financial aid for Tier 3 areas.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said “we don’t rule anything out” on a second national lockdown, but insisted the three-tier system was the “right approach” and a national lockdown would cause “economic harm for no gain at all” in places like Cornwall where infection levels are low.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick repeated the Government did not want to introduce a second national lockdown over fears it could be “immensely destructive” for the country.
He said: “We don’t want to create a second national lockdown. We know that has some effect on bearing down on the virus but we also know it’s immensely destructive in other regards.”
Government scientists warned the PM that a two week circuit-breaker is now no longer enough to turn the tide and a longer lockdown will be needed, because the virus has spread much more since circuit break was recommended.
On Friday morning, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told Sky News a national lockdown would be damaging to the economy and would create “uncertainty”.
He added: “It’s better to take a targeted approach than have the tool of nationwide restrictions at the highest possible level.”
By 10pm, the Government was said to be considering the option of a second national lockdown.
According to the latest data, 989,745 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in the UK and 46,229 have died within 28 days of a positive test.