The UK sees England enter its second major, national lockdown of the year in a bid to combat the spread of COVID-19. What was once deemed an extreme, draconian move to save lives, has become an internationally recognised method to intervene in the fast-spreading nature of coronavirus. The newly dubbed “Lockdown 2.0” is expected to be observed across the whole of England, with restrictions on travelling to or from Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales, as well as other parts of the world.
As of Thursday, 5th November 2020, hospitality venues, non-essential retailers and sports facilities were forced to close their doors once again. The announcement was made on Saturday 31st October, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson declaring a four-week circuit-breaker. The decision comes as recorded cases of the virus increase exponentially across the country.
The day before the enforcement of the second lockdown saw 492 new deaths and 25,177 new cases in the United Kingdom, raising the total number of recorded cases in the country to 1,099,059. Hospital admissions also spiked, with 1,421 newly admitted patients, bringing the total to 174,920.
Speaking on the figures, Johnson said, “Now is the time to take action, because there is no alternative. From Thursday until the start of December, you must stay at home. You may only leave home for specific reasons including: for education; work, where you cannot work from home; for medical reasons; for exercise; to shop for food and essentials; and to provide care for vulnerable people.”
The U-turn has been met with criticism from hundreds of thousands across the country. Councillor Hilary Bills, of the Labour Party, told Eat News, “The public don’t judge politicians on what the politicians’ core values are but whether what they are doing is popular. Now the rate of infection is going up, fewer people are believing him. But there is still a belief that it would not be better under anyone else. Politicians are influenced heavily by our majority right-wing press. It started with David Cameron, halted during Theresa May’s time and now it is back big time. The blame gets shifted from the government onto the public. It’s our fault because we don’t follow the rules.”
With non-essential businesses forced to close from Thursday, many are left wondering what measures are being implemented to protect those who suffered during the first lockdown.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced that the furlough scheme, which sees employees receive at least 80% of their wage whilst temporarily out of work. Meaning that those within the hospitality industry and non-essential retail, whose employers will not be making permanent redundancies, may take comfort in this form of financial security while the country is locked down.
While the scheme has been extended until March, many self-employed and small businesses have been left feeling forgotten once again. Sonali Joshi, a co-founder of ExcludedUK, told Eat News, “Further to the announcement of increased restrictions across England, ExcludedUK reasserts the urgent and vital need to support livelihoods and businesses, and most importantly, those who have been excluded from any meaningful government Covid-19 financial support thus far through no fault of their own.”
Worries for those who suffer with mental health issues have also increased since the announcement was made. Many believe that the closing of gyms, outdoor sports, and other recreational facilities will be most damaging to people who are already isolated from society and dealing with poor mental wellbeing. With health kicks and baking sessions forming common themes during the first lockdown, experts worry that this could especially trigger crises for people with eating disorders. Multi-award-winning mental health campaigner, Hope Virgo, told Eat News, “This is a time of year that is already extremely challenging for people with eating disorders and we need to be acting in a preventative manner. Instead, we need a mental health package for the winter, and to allow for small businesses and gyms to remain open.”
Universities and schools will be allowed to continue operating under the agreed guidelines. Unlike in the first lockdown, where exams were suspended and students were encouraged to return home, the government is now asking students to continue as normal throughout the lockdown. Many young people have been vocal about the poor handling of the circumstances by universities and the government alike.
Samuel George, a journalism student based in London, told Eat News, “The handling of the situation has been incredibly frustrating. Most of my course is online now anyway, I go into the building one morning a week, which will continue despite lockdown. The start of my term was delayed by a month which is a month of lost learning and extra anxiety. Tuition fees are already unjustified, now it’s just blatantly corrupt. Most work experience opportunities in competitive industries have withered away. It’s just awful for students’ mental health and allowing institutions to carry on face to face is absolutely no consolation for how we’ve been treated and ignored this year.”
Previous attempts to halt the transmission rate include introducing a three-tier system, by which regions were labelled tier one, two, or three, depending on the severity of the localised situation. Increased cases would see areas transition between tiers, with restrictions varying accordingly. The most extreme – tier three – saw regions subject to local lockdowns, strict curfews, and a complete ban on mixing households.
Concerns for the new, harsher measures ring true for the Britons who now face the prospect of another four weeks in isolation. Although the month-long period may seem a short stint compared to the three months the country saw earlier this year, an unwillingness from the government to deny the possibility of an extension only serves to propel worries further.
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