Britain is going on a roughly monthlong lockdown as coronavirus cases to surge, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Saturday, just three months after telling The Telegraph that he didn’t want to mandate a national lockdown and likened the measure to a “nuclear deterrent.”
From November 5 to December 2, people will only be permitted to leave their homes for a short list of reasons, such as childcare, work, exercise, medical issues, or shopping for basic needs. Bars and restaurants will only be allowed to provide take-out options and non-essential stores will have to close. Johnson said the country is extending its furlough system through December to help businesses.
More than 1 million people have been infected with COVID-19 in the U.K., and more than 46,600 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins. There were 24,000 new cases on Friday, and Patrick Vallance, chief scientific adviser, said “there’s a potential for this to be twice as bad or more compared to the first wave.”
The United Kingdom had the ninth-highest number of cases worldwide as of Saturday night, trailing closely behind Colombia, Argentina and Spain. The country saw a large spike in daily cases between October 1 and October 3, jumping from nearly 7,000 new daily cases to just under 23,000 new daily cases, according to Johns Hopkins.
Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer and the U.K.’s chief medical adviser and head of public health profession, said at the conference that “across virtually the entire country now, there is a significant rate of increase” as there are roughly 50,000 new cases of COVID-19 every day. The majority of severe cases are among the elderly, he added.
In-patient beds available through the National Health Service (NHS) are starting to decline on “an exponential curve,” Whitty warned. “The progression is steady and we now have several hospitals with more in-patients with COVID than we did during the peak in the spring.”
Johnson said an “overrunning” of the NHS would be a “medical and moral disaster beyond the raw loss of life,” and pointed to COVID-19 case models, which he said suggest “that unless we act, we could see deaths in this country running at several thousand a day.”
“Doctors and nurses would be forced to choose which patients to treat — who would get oxygen and who wouldn’t, who would live and who would die. And doctors and nurses would be forced to choose between saving COVID patients and non-COVID patients.”
Two weeks prior to Johnson announcing the national lockdown, the country announced a, in which the government would work with local leaders to determine the severity of COVID-19 risk, and impose regulations accordingly. Johnson said on Saturday he stands by that decision.
“I believed then and I still believe passionately that was the right thing to do,” he said during a press conference. “Because we know the cost of these restrictions, the damage they do, the impact on jobs, and on livelihoods, and on people’s mental health.”
Johnson was diagnosed with COVID-19 earlier this year, and was hospitalized in the intensive care unit.
On Saturday, Johnson assured people that the new lockdown is not as “full-scale” as the one earlier this year, but that the “basic message is the same”: “Stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.”