(BBC) Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a second national lockdown for England to prevent a “medical and moral disaster” for the NHS.
He said Christmas may be “very different” but he hoped taking action now would mean families can gather.
Non-essential shops and hospitality will have to close for four weeks from Thursday, he said.
But unlike the restrictions in spring, schools, colleges and universities can stay open.
After 2 December, the restrictions would be eased and regions would go back to the tiered system, he said.
Mr Johnson said: “Christmas is going to be different this year, perhaps very different, but it’s my sincere hope and belief that by taking tough action now we can allow families across the country to be together.”
The prime minister told a Downing Street news conference that he was “truly, truly sorry” for the impact on businesses, but said the furlough system paying 80% of employee wages will be extended through November.
“No responsible prime minister” could ignore figures which suggested deaths would reach “several thousand a day”, with a “peak of mortality” worse than the country saw in April, Mr Johnson said.
He said hospitals even in the south-west of England, where cases are among the lowest, will run out of capacity in weeks.
“Doctors and nurses would be forced to choose which patients to treat, who would get oxygen and who wouldn’t, who would live and who would die,” Mr Johnson said.
Under the new restrictions:
- People are being told to stay at home unless they have a specific reason to leave, such as work which cannot be done from home and education
- People are allowed to exercise outdoors alone, with their household or with one other person
- Meeting indoors or in private gardens will not be allowed
- Pubs, bars, restaurants and non-essential retail across the nation will close but takeaways and click-and-collect shopping can remain open
- Construction sites and manufacturing workplaces can remain open
- People are still allowed to form support bubbles
- Children can move between homes if their parents are separated
- Clinically vulnerable people are asked to be “especially careful” but people are not being asked to resume shielding
Mr Johnson, who chaired a cabinet meeting on Saturday afternoon, will make a statement to Parliament on Monday.
The UK recorded another 21,915 confirmed coronavirus cases on Saturday, bringing the total since the pandemic began to 1,011,660.
Another 326 people were reported to have died within 28 days of a positive test.
The UK is the ninth country to reach the milestone of a million cases – after the US, India, Brazil, Russia, France, Spain, Argentina and Colombia.
But the true number of infections is expected to be higher due to a lack of widespread testing at the start of the pandemic.
Prof Neil Ferguson, whose modelling was crucial to the decision to impose the first lockdown, said keeping universities and schools open meant infections would decrease more slowly this time.
He said the new restrictions could reduce cases by anywhere between 20% and 80%, adding that he hoped larger groups of people would be able to gather by Christmas “if only for a few days”.
Mr Johnson had previously resisted pressure to introduce nationwide restrictions, saying they would be “disastrous” for the UK’s finances and opting instead for a three-tiered system targeting local areas in England.
Ahead of the news conference, school and university unions called for education institutions to be closed and for teaching to move online in another national lockdown.
The National Education Union said it would be “self-defeating” to ignore how schools helped to spread the virus.
And “the health and safety of the country is being put at risk” by the insistence on keeping in-person teaching on campuses, the University and College Union said.