Lockdown in England: Will it curb the virus?

Boris Johnson has announced England will go back into lockdown from midnight on Thursday. The second full nationwide shut-down of 2020 comes as the number of Covid-19 cases threatens to overwhelm the NHS.

It’s a grim looking picture for the UK and only heightened more so as the number of confirmed cases has surpassed the one million mark. The new set of rules coming into place are some of the strictest seen since the last lockdown in March.

In short, the advice is to stay at home unless it’s necessary to leave. Reasons to leave include:

  • Going to school.
  • Going to work, if you can’t do your job from home.
  • For exercise – there are no limits in place this time.
  • For medical reasons.
  • To shop for food and other essentials.
  • Caring for vulnerable people.
  • Volunteering.

The Prime Minister also announced that the Furlough scheme, covering 80% of wages, will continue until the end of lockdown. This news was welcomed by the business community who had long called for the scheme to be extended.

Early years settings will remain open, a relief for the sector but more financial action is needed to ensure its survival.

Purnima Tanuku OBE, chief executive of NDNA, said: ‘It will be a relief for early years providers and families that childcare will not be directly affected by the national lockdown during November. It’s vital for children’s development that they can continue with their early education and have the stability provided by continuity of care.

‘However, more should be done to support childcare providers at this time to ensure they are able to remain open and provide that support for children and families who will still need to access childcare places. Demand is already lower than normal due to the pandemic, while enhanced safety measures are seeing running costs rise.

‘These are challenging times which is why we are lobbying government for emergency funding for the sector. Providers need the certainty of knowing what will happen to their spring funding as well as getting the funding right for next year.

‘Although we welcome the return of the full flexible furlough scheme which is good for both nurseries and their employees, the delays in testing are causing serious staffing issues for nurseries. We would like to see local authorities supporting the childcare sector through the £1bn business support fund announced by the Chancellor.’

Commenting, Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said:

‘We welcome the confirmation that early years providers in England will be able to remain open during the upcoming second national lockdown.

‘We know that many nurseries, pre-schools and childminders across the country are already struggling to remain viable as a result of the combined impact of the pandemic and historic underfunding, and that many would not have been able to survive another order to temporarily close.

‘That said, with so many sectors instructed to shut down during this period, it is highly likely that the need and demand for childcare provision will nevertheless fall once again over the coming months, resulting in another fall in income for many early years providers. It is therefore critical that the government provides the financial support the sector needs to get through the upcoming lockdown and beyond, if it is to survive in the long term.

‘What’s more, given we are being asked to remain open at such a frightening and worrying time, it’s vital that early years providers are able to feel confident that they can keep themselves, their staff, the children in their care and their own families safe.

‘For this to happen, government must ensure that all providers have priority access to Covid testing, including home tests; affordable access to PPE; and support with the costs of keeping their settings as clean as possible. Our sector putting itself on the frontline in the middle of a global pandemic – anything less is simply not acceptable.’

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