UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a second national lockdown after a surge in coronavirus cases.

From Thursday, non-essential shops, restaurants, bars, cafes and other hospitality venues must close or move to takeaway-only.

People can only leave their homes for work, school, food shopping, health services or outdoor recreation. Brits can only meet one person from another household in outdoor environments.

Unlike the UK's first lockdown, schools and universities can remain open.

The lockdown will last four weeks, until December 2. The UK passed one million COVID-19 cases this weekend.

"We must act now to contain the autumn surge," Mr Johnson said during a press conference.

The UK's move follows that of France and Germany last week, which reintroduced national lockdowns in a bid to curb the second wave of virus cases.

Earlier, it was announced that from Monday, nearly 2.4 million residents in five districts of West Yorkshire, including in the city of Leeds, will be barred from socialising with other households indoors.

The Department of Health said the measures were needed as infection rates in West Yorkshire were "among the highest in the country" and rising rapidly.

In its weekly study of COVID-19 prevalence, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the number of people with the virus had increased to around one in 100 nationwide.

"There has been growth in all age groups over the past two weeks; older teenagers and young adults continue to have the highest current rates while rates appear to be steeply increasing among secondary school children," it said.

The country's official science advisory panel warned in a report published Friday that the virus was spreading "significantly" faster and that hospitalisations were rising at a higher rate through England than its predicted "worst-case" scenario drawn up in July.

The report said that in mid-October, shortly before new local rules were introduced, around four times as many people were catching COVID than anticipated in the July report.

That study warned that 85,000 more people could die during the winter wave.

Before Mr Johnson instituted a national lockdown, more than 11 million people - about a fifth of England's population - was already to be under the tightest measures from next week.

Most of the areas in the "very high" category of the government's three-tier COVID alert system are in northern and central parts of the country.

Nottingham became the latest city to enter the highest tier Friday.

On Thursday night, young people took to the streets in fancy dress and drank alcohol in large groups before a ban on alcohol sales in shops came into force at 2100 GMT.

GRIM OUTLOOK

Britain has already been the worst-hit in Europe by the pandemic, as more than 45,000 people have died within 28 days after testing positive.

Case rates are spiralling again after a lull, tracking the situation elsewhere on the continent.

England is seeing nearly 52,000 new cases daily, a 47 per cent weekly rise, according to the ONS, which conducts its analysis of households with the help of several universities and health bodies, and excludes people in hospitals and care homes.

Britain's European neighbours and the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have reimposed partial lockdowns to try to cut infection rates.

The Mail has been told that one of Mr Johnson's influential advisers warned the PM this week that a national lockdown was "inevitable" - and delaying it could backfire on him.

If new measures were introduced quickly, restrictions could potentially be lifted in time for Christmas, allowing people to reunite with their loved ones over the festive season.

A senior official said: "Time is marching on, we are two months to Christmas … the more the numbers increase, the more difficult it is to turn it around."

 

CRACKING DOWN FOR CHRISTMAS

While festive holidays have been dubbed "super spreaders" in most nations - due to the large numbers of people and the nature of the gatherings - the Prime Minister has been advised to bookend Christmas Day with lockdowns to minimise the impact.

The original plan would see restrictions enforced in the lead up to the big day while easing them on Christmas Day, immediately followed by a "circuit-breaker" lockdown to help curb rising numbers.

Others disagree with a harsher lockdown, arguing that COVID hysteria is more damaging than the virus itself.

"The concept of a four-week lockdown to save Christmas is yet more cruel and inhumane policy which will further fuel the growing mental health crisis - all justified by holding out a false hope," said Dr Jon Dobinson.

"What we say is take precautions and safety measures but have some regard to quality of life as well as quantity," he argued in an opinion piece run by UK media outlet the Sun.

"People are dying in their thousands from lockdown and restrictions: it's time to focus on that."

EUROPE

Meanwhile a new study reported Friday that a COVID-19 variant originating in Spanish farm workers has spread rapidly throughout Europe in recent months and now accounts for most cases in Britain.

The variant - called 20A.EU1 - is thought to have been spread from northeastern Spain by people returning from holidays there, according to the study, which is awaiting peer review in a medical journal.

There is currently no evidence that the strain spreads faster or impacts illness severity and immunity.

In the last few weeks both Spain and France have surpassed 1 million positive cases, as Europe faces the second wave.

- with wires


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