National lockdown agreed for England

National lockdown measures in England become law first thing on Wednesday.

Male doctor putting on PPE


From midnight tonight the national lockdown announced yesterday for England will become law and people will have to stay at home except for very limited reasons.

The decision follows a rapid rise in infections of the new variant strain of Covid and fears that the NHS could be overwelmed in just three weeks without the move to a tier 5 lockdown.

People will only be allowed to leave their homes for the following reasons:

  • shop for basic necessities, for themselves or a vulnerable person.
  • go to work, or provide voluntary or charitable services, if they cannot reasonably do so from home.
  • exercise with their household (or support bubble) or one other person, which should be limited to once per day and in their local area.
  • meet their support bubble or childcare bubble where necessary, but only if they are legally permitted to form one.
  • seek medical assistance or avoid injury, illness or risk of harm (including domestic abuse).
  • attend education or childcare – for those eligible.

In addition to schools closing to face-to-face education for most pupils, the government is also advising the clinically extremely vulnerable to begin shielding again and letters will be sent to individuals with advice on what this means for them. They will be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay.

All non-essential retail, hospitality and personal care services has to close or remain closed [see here for a list of essential shops] and the Chancellor has announced an emergency package for those sectors most badly hit by the lockdown. Restaurants can continue delivery, takeaway or click-and-collect of food and non-alcoholic drinks, but venues will no longer be able to serve takeaway or click-and-collect alcohol.

Essential shops and garden centres can remain open. Entertainment venues and animal attractions such as zoos must close, but the outdoor areas of venues such as heritage homes and botanical gardens can remain open, to be used for exercise.

Indoor and outdoor sports facilities including sports courts, gyms, golf courses, swimming pools, and riding arenas must also close.

The restrictions are expected to last until at least the middle of February and will be reviewed in line with the situation in hospitals and the vaccination effort.

Of the clarification on homeworking, Alan Price, CEO of BrightHR, said: “People should only leave their home for work where it is ‘unreasonable’ for them to work from home. The knock-on effect of this is that employers will need to consider if any of their employees can reasonably work from home and take steps to implement the change.”

He added that those shielding are entitled to receive statutory sick pay (SSP) for the period of time that they cannot work. “There are a number of options open to a company in this situation,” he said. “Those with less than 250 members of staff can still make use of the SSP Rebate Scheme, which funds up to two weeks of SSP for coronavirus absences. Alternatively, the furlough scheme remains an option for all businesses to now use if eligible, even if they have not done so before and will do so until April.”

Scotland earlier announced a national lockdown for the mainland from midnight on Monday, with remote schooling for all, except vulnerable young people and children of key workers, from 11th January to 29th January and childcare closed to all but key worker and vulnerable children until 18th January. Meanwhile, Wales remains in a Level 4 lockdown which will be reviewed imminently and in Northern Ireland, the executive agreed stricter lockdown measures until 6th February, including a requirement for all employers to conduct a risk assessment where employees are required to work away from their home.

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