Ministers believe that the four-week coronavirus lockdown in England could continue until next year, with a short break for Christmas.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed media rumours that England was going to go into a second lockdown, starting from November 5th and due to end on December 2nd. The country would then return to regional tiered restrictions.
Under the rules, Englishmen will be forced to stay in their homes, only permitted to leave for work, school, exercise, and buying groceries or medicine. ‘Non-essential’ shops will also be ordered to close, leaving only retailers that sell food or other necessities to remain open. England will not go down the extremely oppressive route of Wales, however, which banned the purchase of ‘non-essential’ items from supermarkets during their 17-day fire-break which started last month.
Legally, the lockdown must end in November. However, sources within the Cabinet speaking to The Times on Monday said that it would be “very difficult” to end lockdown as scheduled if hospital admissions or positive cases continue to rise, saying they believe it could be extended until 2021.
“I think it’ll be after the new year. The rate of transmission is not going to go down enough to justify it. Just look at the graphs. It’s going to be a jobs disaster,” one minister told the newspaper of record.
The remarks come after senior minister Michael Gove answered in the affirmative when asked on Sky News on Sunday whether lockdown would be extended if the government deems necessary.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak attempted to walk back those remarks on Monday morning, though was careful in his language not to offer a pledge that lockdown will end when expected.
'Cowardly and Incompetent' Boris Johnson Faces Calls to Resign After Lockdown Announcement https://t.co/UKNfFnHTuy
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) November 1, 2020
“Our hope and expectation is, on the basis of everything we know today, that these measures will be sufficient to bring the R rate to where we need it to be. And, therefore, we can exit back into the tiered approach,” Mr Sunak told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Britain’s Daily Telegraph reported Monday morning further confirmation that the lockdown may run over Christmas into 2021, with the Prime Minister himself apparently refusing to rule out an extension. Mr Johnson will address Parliament today, the paper reported, and is expected to say he will “seek to” end the lockdown in a month, with no further promises made.
There is a rising rebellion within Tory ranks, however, over the lockdown. Sir Graham Brady, leader of the influential backbench 1922 Committee, told BBC Radio 4’s The Westminster Hour that if a totalitarian regime ordered such a lockdown in any other part of the world, it would be considered a “form of evil”.
Leading Conservative MP David Davis wrote in ConservativeHome on Monday that “a never-ending lockdown, without an explicit infection reduction strategy, and with it a lockdown exit strategy, offers little more than a winter of misery.”
The Daily Mail reports that dozens of backbenchers, including blue-collar Tory Esther McVey, are planning to vote against the measures in the House of Commons. While unlikely to be strong enough in numbers to defeat the bill, it could damage public support for the lockdown.
On Sunday, Nigel Farage announced the rebrand of his Brexit Party into the Reform Party, dedicated to taking on “vested interests” and reforming Britain’s political and establishment structures. The Reform Party’s first target, however, is the government’s lockdown strategy, which Mr Farage said was “terrify[ing] the nation into submission”.
The Financial Times‘s Sebastian Payne remarked of the rebrand and potential for growing public rebellion over the lockdown: “Don’t be surprised to see Farage’s Reform party grab some points in the opinion polls and anti-lockdown sentiment to grow over the winter. Some may be due to Farage, but it may also be down to fatigue that has gradually grown since the first lockdown.”
Farage Relaunching Brexit Party as Reform Party, Will Campaign Against Lockdown https://t.co/1IKi4NA1GE
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) November 2, 2020