British public backs new lockdown as two-thirds say Boris Johnson has handled school openings badly

·3-min read
Prime Minister Boris Johnson gives a thumbs up as he has his temperature taken during a visit to view the vaccination programme at Chase Farm Hospital in north London, part of the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust. The NHS is ramping up its vaccination programme with 530,000 doses of the newly approved Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine jab available for rollout across the UK.
Boris Johnson during a visit to view the vaccination programme at Chase Farm Hospital in London. (PA)

The majority of the British public are in favour of a third national lockdown, according to a YouGov poll.

The data shows that 79% of the 1,592 British adults surveyed support a lockdown, while a meagre 16% oppose it.

Fifty-one percent said they “strongly support” the lockdown, while 28% “somewhat support” it.

It comes as a second poll found that two-thirds of people think Boris Johnson has handled school openings badly.

Some 38% of respondents thought that the government handled the issue of opening or closing schools during the coronavirus outbreak “very badly”, while 31%felt it was handled “fairly badly”.

Those polled included people across all major political parties, ages and regions.

Johnson is due to give a televised address at 8pm tonight to announce new restrictions for England.

The prime minister is expected to set out stricter rules to combat the spread of the new variant as new cases rise rapidly.

Watch: Tougher action needed to curb coronavirus spread says PM

A Downing Street spokesperson said: "The spread of the new variant of COVID-19 has led to rapidly escalating case numbers across the country.

"The prime minister is clear that further steps must now be taken to arrest this rise and to protect the NHS and save lives.

"He will set those out this evening."

On Monday, the UK recorded 58,784 new coronavirus cases – the highest daily total since the start of the pandemic.

It was the seventh day in a row that more than 50,000 new coronavirus cases were reported, as hospital admissions continued to rise.

Earlier on Monday, Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon ordered people to stay at home as the nation is placed into lockdown from midnight.

Schools in Scotland will remain closed until at least February.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon reacts as she delivers a statement at Holyrood, Edinburgh, announcing that Scotland will be placed in lockdown from midnight for the duration of January with a legal requirement to stay at home except for essential purposes.
Nicola Sturgeon delivers a statement at Holyrood announcing that Scotland will be placed in lockdown for the duration of this month, 4 January. (PA)

Johnson said on Sunday that “there is no doubt in my mind that schools are safe" in areas where they are open.

In places where cases are high, such as London, parts of Essex, Kent and Hertfordshire, primary schools did not reopen on Monday

But pressure has been building on Johnson to close all schools amid rising coronavirus cases, affecting more children than in previous months.

“Education is a priority,” Johnson told the BBC’s Andrew Marr.

“The benefits of education are so huge, overwhelmingly we want to keep our young people in education.”

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt called for immediate action to close schools, shut borders and ban household mixing, saying the situation was “off-the-scale worse” than previous winter crises faced by the NHS.

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“In the face of exponential growth even waiting an extra day causes many avoidable deaths so these plans must now be urgently accelerated,” he said.

Unions representing teachers have called on the government to halt the reopening of schools for “anyone other than vulnerable children and children of key workers”.

Some local authorities have vowed to keep schools closed, ignoring Whitehall orders on public health grounds.

In a joint statement, six trade unions representing school staff said that teachers continuing to work in schools should be given priority access to COVID-19 vaccinations.

The UK's coronavirus alert level is also expected to be raised from 4 to 5 for the first time.

Level 5 means there is a “material risk of healthcare services being overwhelmed”.

Watch: What is long COVID?

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