Critics have slammed the government’s “staggering incompetence” in the wake of Boris Johnson’s announcement of a second nationwide lockdown.
Tough new restrictions will come into force a minute after midnight on Thursday morning, with non-essential retail and hospitality forced to close and household mixing indoors forbidden.
The government had already been heavily criticised for failing to act in September when the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) issued a stark warning about rising cases and urged leaders to implement a circuit breaker lockdown.
Data shown by chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and chief scientific officer Sir Patrick Vallance during the press conference held by the PM on Saturday evening showed a grim trajectory for cases, hospitalisations and deaths without an intervention.
Labour MP Lisa Nandy tweeted: “A reminder that when he [Boris Johnson] was advised to lockdown on 21st September we were recording 4368 cases a day.
“Now it’s over 21k and rising. The incompetence is staggering.”
“It was the right thing to delay” says the Prime Minister. A reminder that when he was advised to lockdown on 21st September we were recording 4368 cases a day. Now it’s over 21k and rising. The incompetence is staggering
— Lisa Nandy (@lisanandy) October 31, 2020
MP John McDonnell also slammed the government’s “incompetence”, writing: ”[The] country has to recognise now that Johnson and Sunak are dangerously not up to the job.
“People have died and are dying as a result of their incompetence. On [the] 18th September I called for lockdown based on Sage. I said then you can revive the economy but you can’t resurrect the dead.”
Country has to recognise now that Johnson & Sunak are dangerously not up to the job. People have died & are dying as a result of their incompetence. On 18th September I called for lockdown based on Sage. I said then you can revive the economy but you can’t resurrect the dead
— John McDonnell MP (@johnmcdonnellMP) October 31, 2020
Meanwhile, London mayor Sadiq Khan said he was “furious” that the government had “dithered and delayed”, slamming Johnson for choosing to “completely ignore the expert, scientific advice”.
Greater Manchester’s mayor Andy Burnham, who earlier in October took on their government over funding through furlough, also expressed his frustration with the “sheer injustice” of the announcement.
So why were low-paid workers in the North only worth 67%?
The sheer injustice of it. https://t.co/Jw9spDiRDS
— Andy Burnham (@AndyBurnhamGM) October 31, 2020
Johnson announced during the press conference that the furlough scheme, at 80% of pay, would be extended through to December. It was due to end on October 31, before the announcement of a second lockdown.
Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds said: “After the PM’s speech, many will be wondering how they’ll cope- from the self-employed to those on short contracts, and seeking work.
“Dither and delay has damaged public health.
“And tonight’s lack of clarity on support- aside from a sentence or two on furlough-is inexcusable.”
After the PM’s speech, many will be wondering how they’ll cope- from the self-employed to those on short contracts, and seeking work.
Dither and delay has damaged public health.
And tonight’s lack of clarity on support- aside from a sentence or two on furlough-is inexcusable.
— Anneliese Dodds (@AnnelieseDodds) October 31, 2020
From Thursday, all pubs, restaurants, hospitality venues and leisure facilities will close but nurseries, schools, colleges, universities and essential shops will stay open.
Johnson said on Saturday that people should only leave their home for education, work, to shop for essential items, recreation outdoors, for medical reasons or to escape harm. When outdoors, they should only mix with people from their household or with one person from another household.
Support bubbles for single-adult households are still permitted, and children who live between two different households will still be able to move between parents.
The second lockdown, as it currently stands, will end on December 2.
After that date England will revert to the tiered system which has already been in place for several weeks, with Johnson saying in the press conference that the government hopes to move to a “pragmatic” localised approach in the months to come.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.