England under lockdown again

England is entering its toughest new lockdown since March today – and people must now stay at home except for a handful of permitted reasons.

The government rules are due to last for at least seven weeks and to be reviewed at February half term – with schools and colleges closing to most students and switching to remote learning.

Announcing the lockdown from Downing Street last night in a televised address to the nation, Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned the coming weeks would be the “hardest yet”.

He said people should follow the new rules immediately before they became law in the early hours of Wednesday.

The lockdown comes amid a rapid surge in cases and patient numbers – and a new more infectious variant of the virus spreading across the UK.

The England average infection rate is now 519 per 100,000 – with Bristol’s infection rate is 306 per 100,000 people, which represents a 57% increase in the city from the previous seven days.

On Monday, the UK’s chief medical officers recommended the Covid alert move from 4 to 5 – which means there is a “material risk of healthcare services being overwhelmed”.

Mr Johnson said hospitals were under “more pressure from Covid than at any time since the start of the pandemic”.

He said all care home residents and their carers, those aged 70 and above, all frontline health and social care workers, and the clinically extremely vulnerable will be offered one dose of a vaccine by mid-February.

He added: “With every jab that goes into our arms, we are tilting the odds against Covid and in favour of the British people.”

The Prime Minister said he believed the country was entering “the last phase of the struggle” and quoted the slogan from the start of the pandemic – that people should “stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives”.

Under the new lockdown, people in England are advised only to leave home for work – if it is impossible to work from home – and for essential food and medicine.

People can also leave to exercise alone, with one other person or with their household or support bubble – but the advice is to stay local and limit activity to once a day.

Other reasons to leave home are seeking medical care, fleeing the threat of domestic violence and to provide essential care.

Those who are clinically extremely vulnerable are advised to shield themselves as much as possible and should not go to work even if they cannot work from home.

All non-essential retail and hospitality must close or remain closed but restaurants and other premises can continue to offer deliveries or takeaways. However, alcohol will no longer be permitted for takeaway or click and collect.

Places of worship can still remain open, subject to social distancing but outdoor sports venues, tennis courts and golf courses must close.

Outdoor team sports will not be allowed to take place but professional sports can continue.

Government summary of the new restrictions

You must stay at home. The single most important action we can all take is to stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives.

You should follow this guidance immediately. The law will be updated to reflect these new rules.

Leaving home

You must not leave, or be outside of your home except where necessary. You may leave the home to:

  • shop for basic necessities, for you or a vulnerable person
  • go to work, or provide voluntary or charitable services, if you cannot reasonably do so from home
  • exercise with your household (or support bubble) or one other person, this should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area.
  • meet your support bubble or childcare bubble where necessary, but only if you are legally permitted to form one
  • seek medical assistance or avoid injury, illness or risk of harm (including domestic abuse)
  • attend education or childcare – for those eligible

Colleges, primary and secondary schools will remain open only for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers. All other children will learn remotely until February half term. Early Years settings remain open.

Higher Education provision will remain online until mid February for all except future critical worker courses.

If you do leave home for a permitted reason, you should always stay local in the village, town, or part of the city where you live. You may leave your local area for a legally permitted reason, such as for work.

If you are clinically extremely vulnerable you should only go out for medical appointments, exercise or if it is essential. You should not attend work.

Meeting others

You cannot leave your home to meet socially with anyone you do not live with or are not in a support bubble with (if you are legally permitted to form one).

You may exercise on your own, with one other person, or with your household or support bubble.

You should not meet other people you do not live with, or have formed a support bubble with, unless for a permitted reason.

Stay 2 metres apart from anyone not in your household.

See the full guidelines here.