Asked if the lockdown could be extended beyond early December, Gove told Sophy Ridge from Sky News that the government “will always take a decision in the national interest, based on evidence, the best information” it has.
“Is that yes?” Ridge interrupted. “Yes,” Gove confirmed.
The minister said the government will review the data during the four week lockdown as its decisions will “always be driven by the data.”
“It’s our hope, on the basis of the analysis that we have, that we will have significantly reduced the reinfection rate [by the end of the four weeks],” he said.
The second national lockdown in England was announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday. If it’s passed in Parliament on Wednesday, people in England will have to stay home until Dec. 2, except for specific reasons, including for education, for work (if one cannot work from home), for exercise and recreation outdoors, for medical reasons, to shop for food and other supplies, and to care for others.
Stores deemed non-essential, leisure, and entertainment venues will all be closed, though click and collect services can continue and stores considered essential will remain open.
Pubs, bars, restaurants must close, except for takeaway and delivery services. Workplaces where people can’t work from home, such as firms in the construction and manufacturing sectors, can stay open.
Unlike in the first national lockdown, schools, colleges, and universities will be allowed to stay open. “We cannot let this virus damage our children’s futures even more than it has already,” said Johnson.
He said there was “no alternative” as the virus was “spreading even faster than the reasonable, worst-case scenario of our scientific advisors.”
Unless actions were taken, Johnson said, “we could see death in this country running at several thousand a day, a peak of mortality bigger than the one we saw in April.”
Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labour Party, said the government missed a golden chance to lockdown England more effectively when schools were on half-term break last month.
“Well that’s gone now. That is the price of the government’s incompetence,” Starmer told the BBC.
“All the interventions considered have associated costs in terms of health and wellbeing, and that policymakers will need to consider analyses of economic impact and associated harms alongside this epidemiological assessment,” Johnson told Starmer on Oct. 14.
Iain Duncan Smith, former Conservative Party leader, who’s been arguing against blanket lockdowns, called the second lockdown “a body blow to the British people.”
Writing for the Telegraph, Duncan Smith said the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) has been overbearing.
The way that the SAGE has “pressurised the Government into taking this decision has been unprecedented,” he wrote.
“Normally, advisers advise and ministers decide. Yet that system has broken down with Sage believing its advice to be more like commandments written on stone and its members publicly lecturing the Government over the airways when it disagrees.”
He urged the government to also listen to other scientists, including the World Health Organization’s Dr. David Nabbro, who recently said that governments should stop using lockdowns as their primary method to control the spread of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
Alexander Zhang and Reuters contributed to this report.