Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday announced another lockdown in England from Thursday until December 2 after expert modelling predicted a sharp rise in deaths by December if tougher action is not taken and the overall number of Covid-19 cases in the UK crossed one million.

The main difference from the first lockdown in March is that schools and universities will be allowed to remain open. Non-essential retail, restaurants, pubs and other hospitality sectors will remain closed, besides other restrictions on travel and leisure.The basic message is to ‘stay home’.

Johnson said: “No one wants to be imposing these kind of measures anywhere…Our hope was that by strong local action strong local leadership, we could get the rates of infection down, whether disease was surging and address the problem, thereby across the whole country”.

“We’ve got to be humble in the face of nature, and in this country. Alas, as across much of Europe, the virus is spreading even faster than the reasonable worst case scenario of our scientific advisors, whose models now suggests that unless we act, we could see deaths in this country running at several thousand a day, a peak of mortality, alas, bigger than the one we saw in April”.

An official statement said on Saturday evening: “Between 31 January and 31 October 2020, there have been 1,011,660 people who have had a confirmed positive test result,” adding that there were 21,915 new cases and 326 deaths in the last 24 hours.

The second lockdown has been announced for England, the largest and most populated constituent of the United Kingdom, with local lockdown and tighter restrictions already in place in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Scotland advised against travel to and from England.

Latest modelling of deaths by experts from Imperial College London, University of Warwick, University of Cambridge and others predicted at least over 2,000 deaths per day – more than twice the peak earlier this year – by December, if another lockdown is not imposed. One of the models envisaged 4,000 deaths per day.

The modelling, showed to Johnson and ministers on Friday, is said to have changed the government’s regional approach, which so far focused on a three-level alert system based on the number of cases at local levels, so that sectors of economy in areas with low cases could continue.

The first lockdown, announced on March 23, led to a major fall in the number of new cases, deaths and hospital admissions. The development encouraged ministers to introduce the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme in August, which now faces criticism for being partly responsible for the surge in cases.

Other UK constituents are already under tougher local restrictions. Wales is under lockdown until November 9; Scotland’s new five-tiered system of restrictions will come into force on Monday; and in Northern Ireland, pubs and restaurants were closed for four weeks on October 16, with the exception of takeaways and deliveries.

France, Belgium and Germany have already imposed tighter restrictions as the second wave of Covid-19 sweeps across Europe.

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