Tomorrow (Wednesday 4 November), MPs will vote on introducing a new national lockdown for England.

This Insight looks at some of the key differences between this lockdown and the one introduced in March.

MPs will vote before this lockdown is introduced

The first lockdown was approved by MPs over five weeks after it came into force (on 4 May). As our Insight from May explains, the Government used emergency public health powers to impose the lockdown without prior parliamentary approval.

The Government is still using these powers but has since committed to hold votes “wherever possible” before “significant national measures with effect in the whole of England,” are introduced.

That’s why MPs will be voting to approve lockdown this time around.

This lockdown has a legal expiry date of 2 December

The first lockdown effectively lasted 10 weeks (though after seven weeks the rules were relaxed so people could meet one person outdoors).

The new national lockdown measures will expire four weeks after being introduced (on 2 December). The Prime Minister has committed to putting whatever comes after 2 December to a vote as well. So, MPs will have a say on any restrictions imposed after the expiry date.

The Government is intending to return to a tiered system but Michael Gove, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, has said the R rate needs to be below one first.

How long will it take to get the R-number down?

It’s difficult to accurately predict the impact a specific intervention will have on the R-number or on disease prevalence. These will be affected by adherence to the rules, the length of time a measure is in place and how different interventions in place at the same time interact.

In September, the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE) looked at the estimated impact of different interventions.

It estimated that a full stay-at-home order could have a very high impact on Covid-19 transmission, with roughly a 75% reduction in transmission. However, this included closing schools (which this lockdown does not include) and a ban on all contact with other households. Any impact was also dependent on compliance with the rules.

SAGE also looked at the possible impact of a short ‘circuit-breaker’ in September. This would be a stay-at-home order for a period of two to three weeks. It estimated this could have a similar effect to the lockdown in spring, but the limited time period would limit the impact.

People will be able to meet with one other person outside

During the first seven weeks of the first lockdown, people were advised not to meet anyone from outside their home (even whilst they were outside without a “reasonable excuse”). This was relaxed on the 10 May to allow people to meet one person from another household outside for “outdoor recreation”.

On 15 June, the Government allowed people who lived alone or in single parent households to form a “support bubble” with one other household. Those in a support bubble could meet inside each other’s homes. Childcare bubbles now also allow for someone in one household to provide informal childcare for a child under 13 in another household.

From the start of this lockdown people will be able to meet one person in outdoor public spaces (parks, beaches, public gardens, etc) and support bubbles and childcare bubbles will continue to apply.

Police leaders are yet to comment on their approach to enforcing the new restrictions. On October 28 they said they were responding to those known to be breaking the rules more quickly and that

Where people don’t listen to police officers’ encouragement then we will take action. That is our job…

Schools are going to remain open

The Government has confirmed that schools and universities will remain open for all pupils during this lockdown. During the first lockdown, schools were open for the children of key workers and vulnerable children only.

Further reading

A collection of Library research on coronavirus restrictions can be found on our website.

About the authors: Jennifer Brown and Sarah Barber are researchers at the House of Commons Library, covering on the UK’s lockdown laws.

Photo by Gary Butterfield on Unsplash