After a debate in the House of Commons, England goes into a second coronavirus lockdown from Thursday November 5th. There will be differences from the first lockdown in March – schools will remain open and restaurants will be allowed to make takeaway deliveries, and visits to prisons will be allowed.
A statement on the GOV.UK website says:
“COVID-19 case numbers are rising rapidly across the whole of the UK and in other countries. We must act now to control the spread of the virus. The single most important action we can all take to fight coronavirus is to stay at home, to protect the NHS and save lives.
“When we reduce our day-to-day contact with other people, we reduce the spread of the infection. That is why, from Thursday 5 November until Wednesday 2 December, you must:
- Stay at home, except for specific purposes.
- Avoid meeting people you do not live with, except for specific purposes.
- Close certain businesses and venues.
“These new measures will reduce the growth rate of the virus, which will:
- Prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed
- Ensure schools, colleges and universities can stay open
- Ensure that as many people as possible can continue to work”
The main effect of the lockdown will be that non-essential retailers, pubs, restaurants and gyms will close, while supermarkets, pharmacies and other essential services will remain open.
The new regulations allow for some exceptions to the general closure.
- Veterans will be allowed to participate in Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day events
- Friends or close family members in prison will be allowed visits
- Visits to friends or close family members who are near to death will also be allowed
- Restaurants can make takeaway deliveries up to 10pm
The new rules replace a the three-tier system of local restrictions, which will return when the general lockdown ends on December 2nd.
New regulations specify fines starting at £100 for rule-breakers, rising to a maximum of £6,400 for repeat offenders.
The chief constables of five north-west England police constabularies have signed a letter committing to greater levels of enforcement of COVID-19 restrictions during the lockdown, after scenes of widespread disorder in major cities.
The new lockdown starts as the head of NHS England, Sir Simon Stevens, warned that there are now 11,000 coronavirus patients in hospital in England, or as he put it ’22 hospitals worth’, up from 2,000 at the start of October. The UK as a whole recorded a further 397 coronavirus deaths and 20,018 confirmed cases on Tuesday 3rd November. He said that the NHS could only continue with routine operations if this number was brought under control, but that there was hope that GPS could be able to deliver a vaccine by the early part of next year, and possible before Christmas.
A scheme of city-wide coronavirus testing is to be trialled in Liverpool, and regular testing instituted for NHS workers.
- You can meet one other person from another household in an outdoor public place, but not in private gardens. Children under school age do not count towards the total.
- Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies cannot be held under the new lockdown rules.
- Support bubbles are still in place during the new lockdown. Anyone who lives alone can join up with one other household, which can be of any number of people.
- Hotels and hostels will be open only for people who have to travel to work.
- Personal care facilities such as barbers and hairdressers will be closed, and mobile beauty care services will not be allowed to visit homes.
- House moves are still allowed if they have been pre-arranged and follow COVID safety guidance
- Places of worship are to be closed except in limited special circumstances such as blood donations or food banks.
- Mortgage payments may be deferred for a further six months
The new lockdown comes despite opposition from some quarters on economic ground. But Prof Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, defended the plan, saying that a lockdown is the only practical option to stem the spread of the COVID-19 virus until better treatments and a vaccine are available.
In other COVID-19 news, researchers have identified a new symptom of ‘long COVID’ they call ‘COVID toes’. The mild skin condition developes within a week to a month of being infected and leads to a chilblain-like inflammation of the feet. COVID toes can last for months, and though it usually disappears without treatment, one in six patients require hospital treatment.
“It seems there is a certain sub-group of patients that, when they get Covid, they develop inflammation in their toes, which turns them red and swollen, and then they eventually turn purple,” said Dr Esther Freeman, principal investigator of the International Covid-19 Dermatology Registry.
“In most cases, it is self-resolved and it goes away. It is relatively mild. It lasts on average about 15 days. But we have seen patients lasting a month or two months.”
Dr Freeman said identifying those with Covid toes symptoms – which includes some people in the UK – had helped scientists understand more about coronavirus symptoms.
“We are starting to see long Covid in other organ systems, this is the first time we are recognising this can happen in the skin as well,” she said. “I think it raises a lot of questions about what sort of inflammation is going on – is there inflammation elsewhere in the body? We don’t really know the answer yet.”
Read more here about England’s second coronavirus lockdown from Thursday November 5th, and the differences from the first lockdown in March.