One of Boris Johnson’s most senior backbenchers and a top government scientist today joined calls for a national circuit-breaker lockdown amid bleak warnings of 690 daily coronavirus deaths within a fortnight.
The Prime Minister has hitherto resisted demands from Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and regional mayors to impose a nationwide lockdown and is pressing ahead with a targeted battle plan of local restrictions.
More than 28 million people are now living under tighter measures, with people in London among those plunged into the Tier 2 alert bracket last night which bans different households from meeting indoors.
But former health secretary Jeremy Hunt this morning ratcheted up pressure on the PM to go further and indicated his support for a short circuit-breaker.
The Tory MP said: ‘I’ve always thought that it’s better to do things quickly and decisively than to wait until the virus has grown so I have a lot of sympathy with that.’
Government scientific adviser Sir John Bell rowed in behind Mr Hunt and said he sees ‘very little way of getting on top of this without some kind of a circuit-breaker because the numbers are actually pretty eye-watering’.
It came as scientists from the Medical Research Council biostatistics unit at Cambridge University presented Sage with an estimate that 47,000 people are becoming infected in England every day.
While stressing that the ‘substantial proportion’ of cases are asymptomatic, their modelling suggests that hundreds will be dying daily by the end of the month.
The report published this week says: ‘We predict that the number of deaths each day is likely to be between 240 and 690 on October 26.’
In other developments:
- Police fought to enforce coronavirus laws in London last night as they faced defiance from both protesters and drinkers refusing to go home;
- Mr Johnson said the UK is developing the capacity to manufacture millions of fast turnaround tests for coronavirus which could deliver results in just 15 minutes;
- The National Education Union rowed in behind Sir Keir Starmer’s call for a national circuit-breaker to get infections down;
- The Welsh Government were to meet to discuss a circuit-breaker lockdown and will announce any decisions on Monday;
- Some 15,650 coronavirus cases were recorded in the UK on Friday, alongside 136 deaths;
- A senior scientist predicted Britain could be carrying out a million coronavirus tests a day by Christmas;
- The Prime Minister’s attention briefly switched from the pandemic to warn a No Deal Brexit was likely as both London and Brussels ramped up their tough talk.
Hours before the restrictions came into force at midnight, police fought to enforce coronavirus laws in London as they faced defiance from both protesters and drinkers refusing to go home
Jeremy Hunt (left) and Sir John Bell (right) today joined calls for a short national circuit-breaker lockdown amid bleak warnings of 690 daily coronavirus deaths within a fortnight
Yesterday the Government announced 15,650 new lab-confirmed coronavirus cases, although the true figure is estimated to be much higher.
The Cambridge scientists point to Covid-19 hotspots such as the North West and North East, where infections are reckoned to be at 17,600 and 10,000 respectively, followed by London and the Midlands at 5,450 and 5,720.
Sir John, regius professor of medicine at Oxford who advises the Government, resigned himself to backing a circuit-breaker if the country is to get a grip on the surge in cases.
He told BBC Radio 4: ‘I can see very little way of getting on top of this without some kind of a circuit-breaker because the numbers are actually pretty eye-watering in some bits of the country and I think it’s going to be very hard to get on top of this just biting around the edges.
‘I think there will be every effort to keep schools open. If in the end we have to take kids out for two weeks, calm it all down, and then start ideally embedded in a much more rigorous testing regime then that’s maybe what we may have to do.’
Labour leader Sir Keir and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan have been leading calls for a nationwide lockdown and were yesterday supported by Britain’s biggest teacher union, the NEU.
But while the PM yesterday refused to rule out imposing a national lockdown if cases spiral out of control, he underscored his commitment to local action.
At a Downing Street press briefing, he said: ‘Some have argued that we should introduce a national lockdown instead of targeted local action and I disagree. Closing businesses in Cornwall, where transmission is low, will not cut transmission in Manchester.
‘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. Alongside our local strategy we have been working throughout to find other ways to suppress this virus.’
People in London, Essex, York, Elmbridge, Barrow-in-Furness, North East Derbyshire, Erewash and Chesterfield today woke up to new Tier 2 restrictions.
Hours before the restrictions came into force at midnight, police fought to enforce coronavirus laws in London as they faced defiance from both protesters and drinkers refusing to go home.
After being turfed out of pubs and bars at 10pm, crowds spilled on to the streets of Soho where anti-lockdown demonstrators had gathered, including Piers Corbyn who said: ‘We’re here to drink against curfew.’
As it reached 10pm protesters held up signs and gathered together to protest the curfew and increasing restrictions
Police officers marched through Soho as they tried to break up illegal gatherings of more than six people in central London
A man was handcuffed and bundled into the back of a police van in Soho by police officers after the night descended into chaos when revellers were asked to go home
Scientists say up to one million Britons could be tested per day before Christmas
Britain could be carrying out a million coronavirus tests per day by Christmas with results in just 15 minutes, a scientist working on the testing scheme has said.
The source, who was not named, revealed the government is buying new machines capable of processing 150,000 tests per day with the aim of trebling the current capacity of 300,000.
Separately, trials of pregnancy-style tests which could provide results in just 15 minutes will begin in northern hotspots from next week.
‘It’s going pretty well,’ the scientist told The Times. ‘They have really scaled up their capabilities. By Christmas we’ll be at a million a day, I think. That seems perfectly possible.’
Mr Johnson told a No 10 press conference on Friday that the new tests were ‘faster, simpler and cheaper’ and that work was being done to ensure they could be manufactured and distributed in the UK.
Lancashire also joined Liverpool in the most severe Tier 3, where all pubs are forced to close unless they can serve food.
Labour’s council leaders in Lancashire said they had been forced to accept the measures, with South Ribble’s Paul Foster saying they were ‘blackmailed’ and Blackpool’s Lynn Williams adding they had ‘no option’ to agree, as they secured an extra £30million of funding.
Under Tier 3 rules pubs will close unless they serve food and alcohol as part of a sit-down meal, while stricter restrictions on socialising will also come into force.
People will not be able to mix with others in any indoor setting or private garden, as well as in most outdoor hospitality venues.
Casinos, bingo halls, bookmakers, betting shops, soft play areas and adult gaming centres will be forced to shut, while car boot sales will also be banned.
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham is continuing to resist moves from Government to elevate his region into the very high alert level and is also agitating for a circuit-breaker.
The PM yesterday warned Mr Burnham he will impose Tier 3 restrictions on the Manchester region unilaterally, with sources suggesting as early as Monday.
Mr Burnham and council leaders across Greater Manchester responded by insisting they have done ‘everything within our power to protect the health of our residents’, and said people and firms need greater financial support before accepting the lockdown.
They also suggested in a joint statement that Downing Street had delayed discussions, adding: ‘We can assure the Prime Minister that we are ready to meet at any time to try to agree a way forward.’
Mr Hunt this morning urged both sides to stop the public war of words and thrash out an agreement in private.
He told BBC Radio 4: ‘I think more important right now is we stop this public war of words between local leaders and national leaders because in a pandemic the most important thing is a consistent message because you really have to have compliance with the very, very important public health messages about social distancing.
Teaching union backs Keir Starmer in calling for an urgent two week ‘circuit breaker’
A circuit-breaker lockdown backed by the Labour leader Keir Starmer would allow the Government to ‘get in control of the test, track and trace system’ and help control the pandemic, the UK’s largest teachers’ union has said.
The National Education Union (NEU) said the move, which would see secondary schools and colleges in England closed for two weeks at half-term, was urgently needed ‘to allow the system to work better’.
The NEU is now calling for secondary schools and colleges to be shut for two weeks, rather than one, over the October half-term to halt the spread of coronavirus.
Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU, said: ‘Heads, teachers and school staff understand the educational impact of this, but we also understand that in exponential epidemics early action is essential.
‘Taking action now can avoid more disruption later.’
On Friday, figures from the ONS showed that the highest rates of infection in England continue to be among young adults and secondary school pupils.
Mr Courtney continued: ‘This should be no surprise to either the Prime Minister or the Department for Education – scientists have consistency told them that secondary students transmit the virus as much as adults, and we have warned them that because we have amongst the biggest class sizes in Europe we have overcrowded classrooms and corridors without effective social distancing.’
Sir Patrick Vallance yesterday offered a glimmer of hope and said the UK’s coronavirus outbreak is not spiralling as fast as it did in the spring because social distancing and lockdown measures are working to keep cases on a leash.
But the Government’s chief scientific adviser warned that the epidemic is ‘growing everywhere’ and that more action must be taken to bring down the R rate, which is somewhere between 1.3 and 1.5 for the UK meaning cases will continue to surge exponentially.
An official report from SAGE revealed that the R rate in England has actually dropped for two weeks in a row already, falling from an estimated range of 1.2 to 1.6 on October 2 to 1.2 to 1.4 today.
The group cautioned there is no proof the outbreak is slowing and said: ‘SAGE is almost certain that the epidemic continues to grow exponentially across the country, and is confident that the transmission is not slowing.’
A raft of statistics published show cases are still surging in England by as many as 28,000 new infections per day, according to ONS estimates for the first week of October, and Sir Patrick put the figure at more like 40,000 a day – or more – by more up-to-date estimates.
Although the numbers are still rising dramatically and are higher than anything since March and April, they still pale in comparison to the first wave when at least 100,000 people were known to be catching Covid-19 each day.
Speaking in the press conference Sir Patrick said that although the Covid-19 outbreak in the UK is growing quickly it’s not as bad as it was during the first wave in the spring.
‘What you can see is that the R hasn’t gone back to where it was and where it would be in an unmitigated epidemic of this disease which would be at about three,’ he explained.
‘So it has gone up, the epidemic is growing, probably between four per cent and seven per cent per day, but that R hasn’t gone right back up and the reason it hasn’t is because of the measures everyone is already taking.’
The report from SAGE showed that the UK’s rate has shifted upwards slightly with the lower bound of the estimate increasing from 1.2 to 1.3, but the upper limit has not changed in a week.
England’s R rate was estimated to be between 1.3 and 1.6 on October 2 but the range has since dropped to 1.2 to 1.4.
In the past week the projected rate fell in London and the North East and Yorkshire, rose in the East, South East and North West, and was unchanged in the South West and Midlands.
But SAGE warned R rates do not need to increase for the outbreak to get worse, and any figure above one means the virus is spreading quickly.
‘SAGE is almost certain that the epidemic continues to grow exponentially across the country, and is confident that the transmission is not slowing,’ the group warned.
‘There is no clear evidence that the epidemic’s trajectory has changed in the past month.
‘While the R value remains above 1.0, infections will continue to grow at an exponential rate. This is currently the case for every region of England and all have positive growth rates, reflecting increases in the number of new infections across the country.’
The chief scientific officer pointed out there are various estimates of the number of new infections emerging each day in the UK, ranging from around 23,000, suggested by the ONS, to as high as 74,000.
The 74,000 cases per day projection had been made by researchers on SPI-M, a sub-group of SAGE. Sir Patrick said it was likely the ‘upper end’ of the estimates.
Test positivity data from Public Health England shows that the proportion of tests taken that have positive results has soared in September and early October, so that 7.1 per cent of all tests taken are now positive – one in every 14 swabs
Can I still meet friends in a pub garden? Should I cancel half-term trip to Cornwall? Your questions answered as Londoners are plunged into Tier 2 lockdown with parts of Essex, Surrey, Yorkshire, Cumbria and Derbyshire
By Mark Duell for MailOnline
And London is not the only area which will be hit with the Government’s second-harshest lockdown level at midnight tomorrow.
Residents in Essex, Elmbridge, Barrow-in-Furness, York, North East Derbyshire, Chesterfield and Erewash will also have the new restrictions imposed on them.
Tier 2 rules includes a ban on meeting socially with friends and family indoors and weddings will be limited to 15 and funerals to 30.
Gyms, shops, schools, universities and churches will stay open.
You can find out the current alert level in your area with the Government’s postcode checker by clicking here, but note it may change this weekend.
Here, MailOnline looks at what it will mean for all regions under Tier 2 lockdown from Saturday:
Can I still go to my friends’ house on Thursday or Friday night?
Yes. Friday will be the last day when you can visit a friend’s house for now, but you must ensure no more than six people gather – and you leave before midnight.
Can I have my friends over from Saturday?
No. People must not meet with anybody outside their household or support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place.
Can I see my friends inside a pub or a restaurant?
No. You must not meet socially with friends and family indoors in any setting unless you live with them or have formed a support bubble with them.
This includes private homes, and any other indoor venues such as pubs and restaurants.
Can I meet my friends in a pub garden?
Yes. You can gather in groups of six outside at venues which are following Covid-secure guidance, including pubs, restaurants, shops, leisure and entertainment venues and places of worship.
At least one person in the group should give their contact details to the venue or check in using the official NHS Covid-19 app so NHS Test and Trace can contact you if needed.
Drinkers outside a pub in Westminster last month. You will only be allowed to have a drink with friends from a different household at the pub outdoors from Saturday – and not indoors
Can I see friends outside?
Yes. You may continue to see friends and family you do not live with (or have not formed a support bubble with) outside, including in a garden or other outdoor space.
When you do so, you must not meet in a group of more than six.
Do children count in the ‘rule of six’ outdoors?
Yes. This limit of six for meeting people outdoors includes children of any age.
Can I still meet inside with people from my support bubble?
Yes. You will still count as one household who can meet together indoors or outdoors.
A support bubble is where a household with one adult joins with another household.
Households in that support bubble can still visit each other, stay overnight, and visit public places together.
Informal childcare can also be provided via childcare bubbles (see below).
Is the support bubble affected by London changing tier?
No. Your support bubble is still valid despite London going into a higher tier, so you can continue to function as one household.
Can my friends visit if they are from outside London?
No. If you live in a ‘tier two’ area you also cannot meet indoors with people from outside of the area, unless exceptions apply (see final question below).
Can I go to stay at a hotel or Airbnb home within London?
Yes. You can still travel within high alert level areas to hotels and other guest accommodation, but you should only do this with people in your household or support bubble.
You can only stay in a private home – which includes self-catered accommodation such as holiday cottages, apartments or boats – with members of your own household or support bubble.
You can stay in a hotel or similar accommodation (for example, a hostel or bed and breakfast) with another household.
However you should avoid sharing rooms with people you do not live with or otherwise socialising indoors, for example in each other’s rooms, in reception areas, or in restaurants and bars.
Can I still go on holiday outside London?
Yes, with exceptions. You can still go on holiday outside of high alert level areas, but you must only do this with people in your household or support bubble.
Can I still go on holiday to Wales?
Probably not. Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford is proposing a travel ban on visits to Wales by people living in areas of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland with high levels of Covid-19 from Friday.
He said police in Wales could use number plate technology to catch people from UK coronavirus hotspots who illegally enter the country.
Can I still go on holiday to a tier three area like Liverpool?
No. You should avoid travelling to any part of the country subject to very high local Covid alert levels.
Can I still move home or look at a house in London?
Yes. You can still move home. Estate and letting agents and removals firms can also continue to work and people looking to move home can continue to undertake viewings.
Do I have to end my current holiday outside London if it’s with another household?
No. At the time that the new local restrictions are brought in, if you are currently on holiday with another household outside London, but are from London, and are staying in a private home and it is not reasonable for you to curtail your stay, you should finish your holiday as planned.
The Government advises that until the end of this holiday you should ‘make every effort to reduce socialising indoors outside of your household and follow local regulations and guidance’.
Can I still use public transport?
Yes, but with restrictions. The Government says you may continue to travel to venues or amenities which are open, for work, voluntary, charitable or youth services, or to access education, but you should ‘aim to reduce the number of journeys you make where possible’.
If you need to travel, the Government encourages people to walk or cycle where possible, or to plan ahead and avoid busy times and routes on public transport. This will allow you to practise social distancing while you travel.
People wearing face masks pass by market stalls at Covent Garden in Central London today
Do the tier two rules follow me if I travel outside my area?
Yes. The rules are based on the highest tier level out of a) where you live and b) where you are visiting.
Therefore, if you live in London, you must abide by London’s rules wherever you go.
But if you are from a tier one area and are visiting London, you must abide by the rules for London.
Can I visit my parents in an area outside of London?
Yes. However you must follow the rules applying to where you live, so you would have to meet them outside and ensure there is not a group of more than six people.
Can I still commute into London if I live in a tier one region outside the capital?
Yes. The Government says people can continue to travel into a high alert area for work, but should ‘aim to reduce the number of journeys you make where possible’.
Are the exceptions to the rule of six for children?
Yes. There are exceptions from legal gatherings limits for registered childcare, education or training, and supervised activities provided for children, including wraparound care, youth groups and activities, and children’s playgroups.
This means you can continue to use early years and childcare settings, including childminders, after-school clubs and nannies.
Who can provide childcare support in private homes and gardens?
Registered childcare providers including nannies, people in your support bubble or people in your childcare bubble.
What is the definition of a childcare bubble?
A childcare bubble is where someone in one household provides informal (unpaid and unregistered) childcare to a child aged 13 or under in another household.
For any given childcare bubble, this must always be between the same two households.
Friends or family who do not live with you and are not part of a support or childcare bubble must not visit your home to help with childcare.
Childcare bubbles are to be used to provide childcare only, and not for the purposes of different households mixing where they are otherwise not allowed to do so.
Can I meet with a household from another flat inside the property where I live?
No. The Government’s definition of a household is one person living alone, or a group of people (not necessarily related) living at the same address who share cooking facilities and share a living room, sitting room or dining area.
A household can consist of a single family, more than one family or no families in the case of a group of unrelated people.
Therefore people who live in different self-contained flats cannot meet with each other.
Can I visit my grandparent in a care home?
No, with exceptions. You should not visit a care home except in exceptional circumstances, for example to visit an individual who is at the end of their life.
Will shops still be open?
Yes. Non-essential retail as well as essential stores will remain open for customers.
Will I be fined if I am caught having a meeting in a group that is illegal?
Yes. Meeting in larger groups is against the law, although there are certain exceptions (see final question).
The police can take action against you if you meet in larger groups, which includes breaking up illegal gatherings and issuing fixed penalty notice fines.
You can be fined £200 for the first offence, doubling for further offences up to a maximum of £6,400.
If you hold, or are involved in holding, an illegal gathering of over 30 people, the police can issue fines of £10,000.
The newly married Lucy and James Bone after their wedding at St Michael and all Angels Church in Ingram, Northumberland, on July 4 – the day that weddings were once again permitted
Can I attend a wedding?
Yes, with restrictions. Up to a maximum of 15 people can attend weddings or equivalent ceremonies and receptions where the organiser has carried out a risk assessment and ‘taken all reasonable measures to limit the risk of transmission of the virus’.
But receptions should be sit down meals to ensure people can keep their distance from each other, and must not take place in private homes.
Can I attend a funeral?
Yes, with restrictions. Up to a maximum of 30 people can attend a funeral. Wakes and other commemorative events are permitted with up to 15 people present, but these cannot take place in private dwellings.
Where food or drink is consumed, this should be in the form of a sit down meal.
Anyone working at a wedding, civil partnership ceremony, reception, wake or funeral is not generally counted as part of the limit.
People living outside of London in a tier one area can travel to the capital to attend an event, but they must not meet with another household indoors.
Can I still go to church?
Yes. You can still attend places of worship for a service in London. However, you must not mingle with anyone outside of your household or support bubble.
Can I attend an indoor exercise class?
Yes, with restrictions. Indoor exercise classes and other activity groups can only continue provided that households or support bubbles do not mix. Where it is likely that groups will mix, these activities must not go ahead.
There are exceptions to enable disability and youth sport and physical activity indoors, in any number.
Can I still take place in sports activities outdoors?
Yes. In line with guidelines from national sporting bodies, you can take part in sport and physical activity outdoors.
Can I still have a street party?
Yes, but as long as it is outside and no more six people gather, following Covid restrictions.
Can a tradesperson come into my house?
Yes. A tradesperson can go into a household without breaching the rules if they are there for work.
What if I am clinically vulnerable?
The Government advises that those aged 70 or over, pregnant women or those with an underlying health condition can go outside as much as they like but ‘should still try to keep your overall social interactions low’.
Should I share a car with someone from outside my household?
No, in most cases. The Government says it is difficult to socially distance during car journeys and transmission of coronavirus can occur in this context.
So you should avoid travelling with someone from outside your household or your support bubble unless you can practise social distancing.
Does the 10pm curfew still apply to pubs and restaurants?
Yes. Certain businesses selling food or drink on their premises are still required to close between 10pm and 5am.
Businesses and venues selling food for consumption off the premises can continue to do so after 10pm as long as this is through delivery service, click-and-collect or drive-through. Orders must be made via phone, online or by post.
A group of women carry their drinks in London’s Soho after the 10pm curfew began last month
Are hospitality venues at motorway services still exempt from the curfew?
Yes. Hospitality venues in ports, on transport services and in motorway service areas do not need to close at 10pm, but must not serve alcohol after that time.
Can I still go to work in the office?
Yes, with exceptions. The Government advises that ‘office workers who can work effectively from home should do so over the winter’.
It adds: ‘Where an employer, in consultation with their employee, judges an employee can carry out their normal duties from home they should do so.’
Public sector employees working in essential services, including education settings, should continue to go into work where necessary.
The Government also says that ‘anyone else who cannot work from home should go to their place of work’.
Those classed as clinically extremely vulnerable can go to work as long as the workplace is Covid-secure, but should still work from home wherever possible.
Can I still go to school or college?
Yes. The Government says it has ‘prioritised ensuring all children can attend school safely, to support their wellbeing and education and help working parents and guardians’.
Can I still go to university?
Yes. Universities have welcomed students back and students are allowed to move home and travel to go there.
However those in tier two areas must not move backward and forward between their permanent home and term time address during term time – subject to limited exemptions.
Students living at their university term time address in a high alert level area should follow the same guidance on meeting other people and travel as others in that area.
Pupils wear protective face masks on the first day back to school at Outwood Academy Adwick in Doncaster on September 2 as schools in England reopened to pupils following the lockdown
Can I commute into London or another high alert level area to go to university?
Yes. Commuter students – defined as those who live at a family home and travel to/from university each day – should be able to continue to travel to/from their university as required, for education purposes.
However, you must not meet people you do not live with in their home inside the area, unless they’re in your household, childcare or support bubble
You can also not host people you do not live with in your home, if they live in the affected area, unless they’re in your childcare or support bubble
You must also not meet people you do not live with in their student halls, whether inside or outside of the area, unless they’re in your childcare or support bubble.
If you move out of, or currently live outside of, an affected area you should not host people you do not live with in your home or student halls if they live in a high alert level area, unless they’re in your household, support bubble or childcare bubble.
Will Remembrance Sunday at the Cenotaph go ahead?
Yes, with restrictions. Remembrance Sunday at the Cenotaph on November 8 will take place but will be closed to the public.
Crowds will not be allowed to go to the service and will be asked to mark the day at home. The usual Royal British Legion march past has also been cancelled.
It is expected that members of the Royal Family and dignitaries will still attend to lay wreaths to remember the fallen.
What are the exceptions on people from different households gathering?
- in a legally permitted support bubble or childcare bubble
- for work, volunteering to provide voluntary or charitable services
- for registered childcare, education or training
- for arrangements where children do not live in the same household as both their parents or guardians
- for prospective adopting parents to meet a child or children who may be placed with them
- for supervised activities provided for children, including wraparound care (before and after school childcare), youth groups and activities, and children’s playgroups
- for birth partners
- to see someone who is dying
- to provide emergency assistance, and to avoid injury or illness, or to escape a risk of harm
- to fulfil a legal obligation, such as attending court or jury service
- to provide care or assistance to someone vulnerable
- to facilitate a house move
- for elite sportspeople and their coaches if necessary for competition and training, as well as parents or guardians if they are a child
- for outdoor exercise and dance classes, organised outdoor sport, and licensed outdoor physical activity
- indoor organised team sports for disabled people, and youth sport
- support groups of up to 15 participants – formally organised groups to provide mutual aid, therapy or any other form of support (not to take place in private dwellings)
- protests – if organised in compliance with Covid-secure guidance
How long will the rules be in place?
The Government must review which areas are subjected to the rules at least once every 14 days, with the first due to be carried out by October 28.
The restrictions themselves must be reviewed every 28 days, with the first due to be carried out by November 11. The rules themselves expire in six months.