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England to re-enter lockdown on Thursday

The prime minister has announced tougher national restrictions that will be implemented in England from Thursday, with hospitality business having to close once again except for takeaway services. With the NHS weeks from being overwhelmed, and a higher death toll than the first wave predicted without new restrictions, the prime minister, chief medical officer, chief scientific advisor and cabinet agreed that there was no alternative to tougher national measures. Boris Johnson will update parliament today with MPs set to vote on the measures on Wednesday.

From Thursday, everyone must stay at home and may leave only for a limited set of reasons. These include for education; for work, if you cannot work from home; for exercise and recreation outdoors, with your household, support bubble or on your own with one person from another household; for all medical reasons, appointments and to escape injury or harm; to shop for food and essentials; and to provide care for vulnerable people, or as a volunteer. A full set of exemptions will be set out in law.

Non-essential shops, leisure and entertainment venues will be closed. Click-and-collect services can continue and essential shops, including supermarkets, will remain open, so there is no need for anyone to stockpile. Restaurants, pubs and bars must close, except for takeaway and delivery services.

Johnson said that no one wants to impose these kinds of measures, but no responsible prime minister could ignore the evidence presented. He also said that, while Christmas will inevitably be different this year, tough action now could mean families may be able to be together. Belgium, France, Germany and other countries have already put in place national restrictions following earlier local measures.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, known as the furlough scheme, will remain open until December, with employees receiving 80% of their current salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500. The cost for employers of retaining workers will be reduced compared to the current scheme, which ended on Saturday.