Coronavirus: UK lockdown extended for at least three more weeks

Coronavirus: UK lockdown extended for at least three more weeks

The UK’s coronavirus lockdown will remain in place for at least another three weeks to ensure the country gets over the peak of the epidemic, the government has announced.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who is deputising for Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he recovers from COVID-19, confirmed the extension following advice from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).

 

Speaking at Downing Street’s daily coronavirus news briefing, Mr Raab said: “The government has decided that the current measures must remain in place for at least the next three weeks.”

He said SAGE had advised that “relaxing any of the measures in place” would “undo the progress we have made” and would “risk damage to both public health and the economy”.

The extension takes the lockdown to at least 7 May, and Mr Raab hinted it would likely go further in light of a previous suggestion by the prime minister that the UK could “turn the tide” of the virus within 12 weeks.

Mr Johnson made the comment on 19 March, and Mr Raab admitted that was “broadly the outline” for when the UK might expect to return to some normalcy.

Mr Raab laid out five factors the government “must be satisfied of” before considering changes to the lockdown:

  • Confidence that the NHS can still provide sufficient critical care and specialist treatment across the UK.
  • Need to see a sustained and consistent fall in the daily death rate to be confident we are beyond the peak.
  • Reliable data from SAGE that the infection rate has decreased to manageable levels.
  • Testing capacity and PPE is in hand to meet supply for future demand.
  • Not risk a second peak of infection that overwhelms the NHS.

“We’ve come too far, lost too many loved ones and sacrificed too much to let up now – especially when we are now beginning to see that our efforts are paying off,” said Mr Raab.

“There is light at the end of the tunnel, but we are at a delicate and dangerous stage of this pandemic.”

Ahead of Thursday’s news conference, the unprecedented lockdown had already surpassed the original three-week timescale laid out by the prime minister last month.

The extension keeps people indoors, only leaving the house for one hour of exercise per day, to shop for essential supplies like food, for medical assistance, or to go to work if doing so from home is not possible.

There are no measures being lifted for now as the UK remains a few weeks behind other European countries badly hit by the pandemic, with Italy and Spain having slightly eased some restrictionsfollowing consistent daily falls in their infection and death rates.

Mr Raab said that while the lockdown had seen the rate of infection drop significantly, there were still “issues with the virus spreading in some hospitals and care homes”.

The extension came after Mr Raab led a cabinet meeting where ministers were briefed on SAGE’s advice by the government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance.

After then dialling in to a meeting of G7 leaders led by US President Donald Trump, First Secretary of State Mr Raab chaired another meeting of the government’s emergency COBRA committee.

The leaders of the devolved administrations for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland joined in by video link as the lockdown was formally extended.

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford had stolen Mr Raab’s thunder minutes before the government’s briefing began, confirming that the leaders of each administration had agreed to keep the measures in place.

The extension announcement was widely expected, with ministers and some of the government’s top medical and scientific personnel having spent recent days warning that it was too early to consider lifting any restrictions.

Chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty told Wednesday’s news briefing that while the UK was “probably reaching the peak” of the epidemic, thousands more would die before attention turns to easing the lockdown.

Earlier on Thursday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Sky News that it would take time for the measures to be phased out and for life to get back to something resembling normality.

He told Kay Burley@Breakfast: “It is too early to say now that we should remove the measures.

“People can see that while we may be reaching a peak the numbers aren’t coming down yet.”

The number of deaths of coronavirus patients in UK hospitals jumped by 861 to 13,729 on Thursday, after four consecutive days in which the increases had been below 800.

It has also been well established that the UK’s true COVID-19 death toll is higher than the hospital figures suggest.

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics suggested there were around 75% more coronavirus-related fatalities in England and Wales last month than previously reported by the government.

More than half of those happened in care homes, while others took place in people’s homes and in hospices.

On Wednesday, the National Records of Scotland revealed that – as of 12 April – almost 25% of 962 registered deaths where COVID-19 was mentioned in the death certificate in Scotland had occurred in care homes.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the government must ensure “more is done to protect our care homes” before considering any lockdown changes.

He said: “I fully support the government’s decision to extend the lockdown.

“The priority now must be to ensure we see a ramp up in testing, that staff get the PPE they desperately need and more is done to protect our care homes from the virus.

“We also need clarity about what plans are being put in place to lift the lockdown when the time is right.”

The Brexit post: UK ambassador to Spain explains what result of GE2019 means for Brits in Spain and the implications of leaving the EU with a deal on 31 January 2020

The Brexit post: UK ambassador to Spain explains what result of GE2019 means for Brits in Spain and the implications of leaving the EU with a deal on 31 January 2020

Updated 17 December: The FCO has released the following video of the UK’s ambassador to Spain, Hugh Elliott, saying that it explains what the result of the General Election means for UK Nationals living in Spain and the implications of leaving the EU with a deal on 31 January 2020. Registering as a resident remains the key action point. For further information see the Living in Guide at gov.uk/livinginspain. The FCO adds their apologies for the subtitles being slightly out of sync, but say that they thought it was more important to get the message out sooner rather than later!

 

Updated 16 December: A suggestion for British nationals to acquire associate EU citizenship made three years ago by Guy Verhofstadt has resurfaced now through an initiative by Jolyon Maugham, barrister and founder of the Good Law Project. As I understand it, it was a suggestion Theresa May rejected but which Maugham, supported by the likes of Richard Dawkins, thinks that Boris Johnson might consider. For those who are interested in signing the petition, which Dawkins says “would be a wonderful way for Mr Johnson to move towards reconciling Britain’s two warring tribes”, just click HERE.

I accept this is a contentious subject, and this is likely to be a topic generating anger, mockery,  and more, so I would just ask people interested to click the link, and everyone else just to ignore. It is a post for information, not a direct suggestion.

Updated 15 December: The Adeje volunteer Focus group has another batch of appointments for those who still need to register with the police. Brexit Day now is likely to be 31 January assuming PM Johnson gets the Withdrawal Agreement passed in the House of Commons as he is expected to do. There are therefore just six weeks left until the United Kingdom officially leaves the European Union.

If you are a British national living in Tenerife and still not registered as resident in Spain, or are unclear as to the permanent nature of your status, these appointments are specifically for the purposes with the Spanish authorities, and as before, they are only available through FOCUS. Anyone who is still not registered to reside legally in Spain, and who meets the criteria for registration should email FOCUS at focusadeje@gmail.com putting RESIDENCY as the subject line of the email. In the body of the email, explain your specific situation (working, self-employee or non-working) and give your contact details: you will be contacted in due course to be allocated an appointment. Please note that if you do not speak Spanish you might need to arrange a translator to accompany you to the appointment.

The Focus group cannot deal with any queries by phone; this is simply to allocate appointments and provide information of documents needed for your appointment.

Updated 13 December: After a landslide victory for the Conservative Party last night, there will at least no longer be Parliamentary paralysis. Those who wanted to remain in the EU and stop Brexit were always up against it, with all analysts assessing the chances of a second referendum as never better than 25%, usually much less. Now, the Conservatives are likely to have a Queen’s Speech and a minor reshuffle before Christmas, and then in January, “Get Brexit Done”. The focus will then shift to the Implementation Period, now much reduced from the initial two years to just one: Johnson has until the end of 2020 to get a trade deal with the EU and has refused to request an extension.

For its own part, the EU has already reacted with pleasure, not to the result as such, but to the scale of the victory as indicated by the exit poll. At least there’s clarity, they say … along with “Goodbye to our British friends”. Another goodbye might yet be due to Scotland, with the SNP looking to make such gains as to be in virtual total control north of the border. With regard to the other border, in Ireland, the DUP are unlikely to trust Johnson now but he will no longer need them, and Irish reunification cannot be ruled out. It could be that the UK will exit not just the European Union, but its own.

Next year, then, will be momentous, because not only will the UK leave the EU on 31 January, the following 11 months will see hectic negotiations for the country’s future trading and political relationship with the EU. Domestically, almost certainly pressure will be applied from Scotland for an independence referendum, and a civil war is equally likely to erupt in Labour over the direction, and indeed the soul, of the Party. As to the Lib Dems, long thought to be wrong in following a focus-group-led policy of Revoke and so ignoring the 17m or so who voted Leave, their future seems likely now to become something of an irrelevant sideshow.

Conservatives and Leave supporters will be jubilant after this election result. Naturally so. Their opponents will be distraught because this, unlike other elections, will change the shape and future direction of the UK and, of course, take the country out of the European Union. As such, it has been an election of values as much as politics. The losers will be in sore need of comfort, and it is in short supply, but at least, at last, there will be clarity, and paralysis was helping no-one. And Johnson will have such a majority that not only will he not need the DUP, he won’t need the ERG either: that is a crumb of comfort for those who are hoping for a softer Brexit. No-one really knows what sort of Brexit Johnson wants, but he has the chance now to pivot not just to a hard Brexit, the hardest sort that the ERG want, but to a soft central one. That at least is now a possibility. I hope it brings some comfort to those in distress on a monumental night.