Economy facing new crisis
Johnson may order national lockdown next week
The Prime Minister is facing pressure from scientists
Boris Johnson could announce a new national lockdown for England next week, according to government sources, after his scientific advisers told him it was the only way to get the coronavirus under control.
Scientists have presented Downing Street with evidence that that the virus is spreading ‘significantly’ faster than their original ‘worst-case scenario’ prediction.
They fear the virus will kill 85,000 this winter and that it is now too late for a so-called ‘circuit break’.
It is thought Mr Johnson will be forced to order a month-long shutdown for England though he will want to allow greater flexibility than the Spring closures which effectively brought the economy to a standstill.
England could see everything except nurseries, schools, universities and non-essential shops close until 1 December. It could have implications for the sporting calendar.
The Prime Minister is to meet the leaders of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to thrash out a common approach to handling the crisis. The whole of Wales is already in lockdown. On Monday a new five-level system will come into effect in Scotland which could resist a total nationwide lockdown.
New instructions north of the border include parents being ordered to wear face masks when they are dropping off and picking up children from schools. Senior school pupils and their teachers must also wear masks.
The Prime Minister and Chancellor Rishi Sunak are said to have agonised over the calls for further action because of fears that a second lockdown will prompt permanent business closures.
Mr Sunak has already spent billions propping up businesses but cannot afford to keep funding wages and companies indefinitely.
However, documents from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) are reportedly pushing for a month-long lockdown similar to the measures imposed in France, saying this is the only way to save Christmas and prevent hospitals running out of beds.
Concern over the growing cases of coronavirus have hit stock markets around the world and coincide with the ending of the furlough scheme that has protected millions of UK jobs.
The FTSE 100 fell only by a modest 0.1%, or 4.48 points on Friday to 5577.27 points, but it has suffered its worst month since March, down 282 points over the period.
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 1.4%, the Nasdaq 2.8% and the S&P 500 1.8%.
Eat Out scheme contributed to new Covid wave – study
The Chancellor’s “Eat out to help out” discount scheme to boost spending at restaurants, cafes and pubs over the summer contributed to a second wave of infections, according to a new study.
Between 8% and 17% of newly detected infection clusters could be linked to the scheme during the period of the offer, according to the study by the University of Warwick.
Areas where there was a high uptake of the scheme saw an increase in new infections about a week after it started, the study found, while those same areas saw a decline in new infections a week after the discount offer finished.
The Treasury disputed the findings. A spokesman said: “Many other European counterparts have experienced an uptick in cases – irrespective of whether similar measures for the hospitality industry have been introduced.”
However, earlier this month Prime Minister Boris Johnson conceded that it may have had an impact on infections, though he defended it for helping to protect millions of jobs in the hospitality industry.