The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has tonight (Monday, 4 January 2021) announced that England will once again go into a national lockdown with advice issued to stay at home. The lockdown will officially begin on Wednesday, 6 January, but we are being asked to begin observing the new rules immediately.
This follows a significant increase in COVID-19 cases across the country, which is also impacting on the NHS and hospital admissions. In addition, a new variant of COVID-19 is circulating. This was first identified in Kent last month but is now known to be in other parts of the country. It spreads more quickly and easily than the old variant, although the effects are not thought to be more severe.
On 29 December, more than 80,000 people tested positive for COVID across the country and deaths are up by 20% over the last week.
With most of the country under extreme measures, more needs to be done whilst the COVID vaccine is rolled out.
Stricter measures are necessary to prevent the spread of the virus and the national lockdown includes:
- Stay at home unless you are shopping for essentials, going to work (only if you’re unable to work from home), for exercise, to seek medical assistance (such as getting a COVID test) or to escape domestic abuse.
- Clinically extremely vulnerable residents should begin shielding again and you will receive a letter about what this means for you in due course.
- Primary, secondary schools and colleges across England will move to remote learning from tomorrow (Tuesday, 5 January), except for vulnerable children and the children of key workers. Early Years settings can still be accessed. This will remain the case until at least after February half term.
- Exams – The Prime Minister has said it is not possible or fair for exams such as GCSE or A Levels to take place this summer. Alternative arrangements will be put in place and more information will be made available soon.
- Support will be provided for children who are eligible for free school meals.
- The Government will make more devices (such as laptops) available to pupils who are learning remotely but do not currently have access to the right equipment at home.
The Chief Medical Officer advised earlier in the day that the country has moved to the highest Coronavirus Alert Level – Level 5. This means that there is a risk that NHS capacity will be overwhelmed within 21 days unless further action is taken.
Running alongside the lockdown, the vaccination programme is being rolled out across the UK. By mid-February, the Government hopes to have offered the first vaccine dose to everyone in the top four priority groups. These are: all residents in a care home (adults and their carers), everyone over the age of 70, all front line health and social care workers and everyone that is clinically extremely vulnerable.
Everyone must play their part to help to bring down the infection rates. We should all do everything we can to protect ourselves and our families. Reduce social contact, keep your distance from others, wash and sanitise hands regularly and wear a face covering when required.
The new restrictions will become law on Wednesday (6 January) but should be followed with immediate effect.
The full national lockdown restrictions can be found on the Government’s website.