On Saturday 31 October, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a second national lockdown which will be in force across the whole of England for four-weeks from Thursday 05 November.
This follows the announcement on last Thursday that Oxford city was moving into local COVID alert level Tier 2 – High Alert.
Non-essential shops and hospitality businesses will have to close for four weeks on Thursday, but unlike the first national lockdown in spring, schools, colleges and universities can remain open.
In his address Mr Johnson said: "We have been humbled in the face of nature.
"In this country, alas as across most of Europe, the virus is spreading even faster than the reasonable worst case scenario of our scientific advisors."
He added he was 'under no illusions about how difficult this will be' and said: "We will get through this but we must act now."
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."
He added: "From Thursday the basic message is the same, stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives."
After 02 December, the different parts of England will return to local COVID alert levels one, two or three, depending upon the rates of infection in that region.
What are the new restrictions?
In summary, under the new restrictions:
- People are to stay at home unless they have a specific reason to leave like education, and work which cannot be done from home e.g. construction sites and manufacturing workplaces.
- 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 stay open.
- Indoor and outdoor leisure facilities, such as gyms and swimming pools, will also close, along with entertainment venues and personal care facilities such as beauty salons.
- Places of worship will close, unless they are being used for funerals, to broadcast acts of worship, individual prayer, formal childcare, or essential services such as blood donation or food banks.
- Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies will not be able to take place except in exceptional circumstances, and funerals will be limited to a maximum of 30 people.
- Overnight stays, staying in a second home, and holidays will not be allowed - including in the UK and abroad - although there are exceptions, such as work trips.
- People will be told to avoid all non-essential travel by private or public transport.
- People are still allowed to form support bubbles, and 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.
Good to know
- Moving house is allowed, and removals firms, estate agents and tradespeople can continue to work but must follow COVID safety guidelines.
- Dentists, opticians chiropractors and osteopaths can remain open as usual.
- You can take unlimited exercise outdoors. This should be done locally wherever possible, but you can travel to do so if necessary.
- Although non-essential shops are closing, you can order by "click and collect" i.e. you can order products online and go to pick them up.
- Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies cannot take place, whether they are at a church or elsewher.
- Hotels and hostels are only going to be open for people who have to travel for work purposes only.
- Places of worship are closed except for funerals, individual prayer, for broadcasts of acts of worship, formal childcare, voluntary and public services like blood donation or food banks, or for some support groups.
- Mortgage payment holidays are being extended for homeowners financially affected by the pandemic. Homeowners can request repayment holidays of up to six months, or extend their previous mortgage holiday until they reach the six-month limit.
Could the lockdown be extended beyond 02 December?
Yes, according to Cabinet Minister Michael Gove. Speaking about the end of a second lockdown in England on the BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday 01 November, he said that the England-wide lockdown announced by Boris Johnson on Saturday could be extended beyond 02 December if the infection rate does not fall sufficiently. "We do need to get the R rate below 1" he added.
But PM Boris Johnson in a televised press conference on Thursday 05 November emphasised that the scientific advice he has received suggests four weeks is enough to make a real impact on the rate of transmission of the coronavirus to a level that protects the NHS. Essentially, the message now is to protect the NHS and get R below 1. Additionally, he stressed that the lockdown is not open-ended and plans to return to the tier system on 02 December yet was careful not to guarantee that the lockdown will be over on 02 December.
Monday 16 November and current lockdown measures in England could continue beyond their planned end date of 02 December according to the Health Secretary. Mr Hancock said it was “too early for us to know” whether coronavirus cases will be brought down sufficiently, to ease the second lockdown on 02 December. His comments were far more pessimistic than earlier projections made by Boris Johnson.
Monday 23 November and the PM has announced that England's lockdown will end on 02 December, to be replaced by tougher three-tiered regional measures that that will be in place until 04 April 2021. You'll find everything you need to know here.
What about the discovery of a coronavirus vaccine?
On Monday 09 November, Pfizer and BioNTech announced that preliminary findings show a vaccine they have developed can prevent more than 90% of people from getting Covid-19, although there are some unanswered questions around whether the vaccine stops the spread of the virus, or whether it just stops people from developing symptoms.
In response to the announcement, the government announced that it has procured 40 million doses of their vaccine (enough for 20m people as each person will need two doses). They were quick to spell out the huge challenges ahead, especially around the logistics of immunising a large number of people in a relatively short timeframe. But, if it all goes well though, then this could be the distant light at the end of the tunnel. The results from other vaccine trials - including the Oxford vaccine - are expected soon.
Monday 16 November and US company Moderna announced that its new vaccine that protects against Covid-19 is nearly 95% effective. Like the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, it uses an innovative and experimental approach of injecting part of the virus's genetic code in order to provoke an immune response. Unlike the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine though, it will be easier to store as it remains stable at minus 20C for up to six months, and it can be kept in a standard fridge for up to a month.
Monday 23 November and The University of Oxford and AstraZeneca have announced that the vaccine ChAdOx1 nCoV-2019 is up to 90% effective at preventing COVID-19. Read more about that here.
What will happen to Oxford city after the lockdown?
The Prime Minister has reiterated plans to return to the 3-tier system when lockdown 2.0 ends on 02 December. So assuming the lockdown is not extended, Oxford city will be put into a tier that reflects the prevalent rate of coronavirus in the community.
Monday 16 November and Dr Susan Hopkins of Public Health England has said tiers 1 and 2 system in England have not worked as hoped and warned that the tiered system that ministers want England to return to after lockdown may have to be strengthened.
Monday 23 November and following the PM's announcement about the end of England's lockdown on 02 December, an announcement on which areas will be placed in which tier is due to be made on Thursday 26 November. You can read more about it here.
What will happen to Oxford University students over Christmas?
On 11 November the government set out guidance for university students to travel home at the end of the term. Essentially, it means that students from both Oxford University and Oxford Brookes University would be asked to go home for Christmas, during a "student travel window" between 03 and 09 December, to minimise the risk of them spreading Covid-19. Many will be offered rapid result tests, and teaching is expected to move online.
What about Oxford University students returning in January?
No plans have been announced yet for what will happen in January, that is either for students to return to university safely, or whether they may have to study online from home.
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This story and its headline have been updated with additional developments.