British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Saturday that England would enter a one-month lockdown beginning Nov. 5, the country’s second since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
All non-essential shops in the country will be required to shut their doors until Dec. 2, as will hospitality establishments, but schools and universities will be allowed to remain open. Johnson said the government will continue to provide financial aid to furloughed workers, paying 80 percent of their wages. To businesses hurt by the measures, he said he was “truly, truly sorry.”
Flanked by England’s chief medical officer and the government’s chief scientific advisor, the prime minister said, “We’re not going back to the full scale lockdown of March and April. The measures that I’ve outlined are far less primitive and less restrictive. Though, I’m afraid, from Thursday, the basic message is the same: Stay at home, protect the [National Health Service], and save lives.” Health officials have warned that many hospitals around the country will be full in the coming weeks, and the Office of National Statistics estimates that one in every 100 people in the nation has contracted COVID-19.
Coronavirus cases in England sailed above 1 million for the first time Saturday with no signs of slowing, and new infections across the United Kingdom and Europe are surging. Wales instituted a 17-day lockdown a week before the announcement from Downing Street.
“Christmas is going to be different this year, perhaps very different, but it’s my sincere hope and belief that by taking tough action, we can allow families across the country to be together,” Johnson said.
Johnson had originally scheduled the announcement for Monday, but leaks to the BBC and other news outlets exposed the government’s plans to the public.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced similar measures Saturday in his country, including a national mask mandate, a curfew, a prohibition on mass gatherings, and the shuttering of non-essential businesses like bars and movie theaters. Travel within the country will not be restricted, as it was in the spring. Unlike England’s new rules, Greece's lockdown requires universities to implement remote classes. The partial lockdown begins Tuesday and will continue for a month.
Portugal’s government also implemented a second lockdown on the majority of the country Saturday set to begin Nov. 4. Austria imposed one beginning Tuesday that will close hotels and restaurants, but salons and schools will continue operating. Both countries have seen sharp rises in confirmed coronavirus cases in recent weeks. Italy and Germany, once seen as having the pandemic under control, will enter modified lockdowns in the coming week, as will Belgium and the Czech Republic. France’s second lockdown has already begun.
Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization’s Europe director, said Thursday, “Europe is at the epicenter of this pandemic once again.”