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Anger that blood-curdling briefing on lockdown ‘bounced’ PM into action

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Timeline of the PM’s lockdown decision

Friday, 7am: Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab begins a round of broadcast interviews defending the government’s ‘Tiered’ system of local lockdowns.

Friday 2.30pm: Sir Patrick Vallance underlines SAGE’s call for a national lockdown at a briefing with reporters, saying it is ‘not too late to save Christmas’.

Friday 3pm: Papers are released online from a SAGE meeting which show that advisers warned ministers on October 14 that the UK could be headed for a situation more serious than the scientists’ ‘worst case scenario’.

Friday 3.30pm: The Covid ‘Quad’ committee, which has taken all the key strategic decisions during the pandemic, met in the Cabinet Office. Mr Johnson, Rishi Sunak, Matt Hancock and Michael Gove attended along with around 15 officials.

Early evening : Downing Street is informed that ITV political editor Robert Peston has received a ‘read-out of the whole meeting’, according to the Times.

10.30pm: No10’s plans to shut-down England for at least a month have also been leaked to the Daily Mail and are revealed when the first edition of Saturday’s paper drops.

Saturday 7am: BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg reveals some of the information shown to the quad involves daily deaths could top 4,000.

11am: Boris Johnson calls an unscheduled Cabinet briefing to update furious ministers on his plans. With just hours to go he also calls a hastily arranged live television press conference for 4pm to brief the nation about his plans.

Downing Street, which had hoped to make the announcement on Monday, launches an investigation to find the source.

1.30pm: Cabinet meets virtually, with the PM dialling in from Downing Street. It lasts more than an hour

3:40pm: Broadcasters are briefed a summary of the measures Mr Johnson will be announcing at the press conference, following the Cabinet meeting.

6:45pm: Boris Johnson, flanked by chief medical officer Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick, finally fronts the delayed press conference and unveil the lockdown.

Scientists and Cabinet ‘Doves’ have been accused of an extraordinary choreography to force Boris Johnson into the draconian coronavirus lockdown – amid warnings it could devastate the economy.

MPs are furious about a concerted effort to ‘bounce’ the PM into imposing the swingeing restrictions in England from December 2, as it can be revealed today that science chief Sir Patrick Vallance gave a blood-curdling briefing to reporters on Friday underlining SAGE’s demands for an immediate lockdown – alongside figures suggesting more than 85,000 people could die this winter.

The bombshell assessment came an hour before the powerful ‘quad’ of the PM, Michael Gove, Matt Hancock and Rishi Sunak met around 3.30pm to discuss the move.

Sir Patrick told stunned reporters that it was too late for a two-week circuit breaker, and a four-week lockdown similar to that introduced in France was the best way to control the R number. Those in the briefing were left in little doubt that a national squeeze was coming.

In fact Mr Johnson had still been wavering on the issue that morning, when Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was sent out to defend the local ‘Tiers’ system on the airwaves. The premier even ‘argued against himself’ about whether the damage from lockdown would be worse than the disease during the ‘Quad’ meeting.

But, confronted with Sir Patrick and Chris Whitty’s dire predictions he set the wheels in motion on a month-long lockdown.

Within hours the tentative decision taken by the elite group was leaked to the Daily Mail and Times – before the full Cabinet had been informed – in an apparent effort to prevent the PM changing his mind.

By Saturday morning the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg was giving details of two key documents that were shown to the ‘quad’, a controversial prediction that the daily death toll would hit 4,000 a day and that NHS hospitals would be overwhelmed.

There has since been criticism that the 4,000 a day projection was already out of date. It was produced by experts from the University of Cambridge and Public Health England who have since revised their numbers and lowered the possible numbers of deaths.

Nevertheless, both slides formed a key part of the data finally officially presented on Saturday night, when a livid Mr Johnson brought forward his announcement after a call with his clueless wider Cabinet.

A formal leak inquiry has now been launched to find the culprit – with claims that just 15 people, including Sir Patrick, chief medical officer Chris Whitty and NHS England head Sir Simon Stevens were in the meeting.

There have even been dark threats that the police could be called in to find who undermined the PM’s approach.

Fingers have been pointed at Mr Gove and Mr Hancock, both of whom deny being the source. Downing Street insists it was not in its interests for the information to go public at that stage.

A former Cabinet minister told MailOnline that the behind-the-scenes manoeuvring over the lockdown was ‘very odd’.

They suggested that the intervention from Sir Patrick was part of an effort to ‘bounce’ the PM. ‘It does sound like a bounce. If he was briefing people in advance he was obviously trying to build up a head of steam behind the notion of a lockdown,’ they said.

The Tory MP suggested the events had the hallmarks of a ‘Gove-Cummings’ operation – a reference to the fact that the PM’s chief adviser used to work for the Cabinet Office minister. ‘I don’t think there is any doubt about that. Gove has already proven that he doesn’t feel a great deal of loyalty to the PM,’ the MP said.

‘I was always astounded Boris brought him in again. Presumably it was part of the package with Cummings.

‘It’s the Gove-Cummings axis that is the problem here.’

The MP said the figures being used to support the lockdown move, including claims that deaths could hit 4,000 a day, were questionable

‘The figures don’t appear to have been updated to reflect the true state of affairs,’ they said.

A government source told the Telegraph that Mr Johnson had not made a final decision by the end of the Quad meeting, and Mr Sunak was working on ‘softening the impact and trying to keep it focused on the regional approach’.

The source added: ‘When it was leaked it became a done deal and forced the Prime Minister to take action.’

Mr Johnson will today try to head off a mounting Tory revolt against his nationwide lockdown by warning coronavirus deaths this winter could otherwise by double the first wave. MPs have been raging at the ‘evil’ new rules, likening them to something from a ‘totalitarian regime’.

In another tumultuous day of coronavirus developments:

  • Shares in retail and leisure firms have plummeted as the stock market reacted to Mr Johnson’s hastily released plans; 
  • Mr Sunak has revealed that support for the self-employed is set to be boosted along with furlough, which has been extended for the duration of the national lockdown;
  • Wales has insisted that its ‘firebreak’ lockdown will end on November 9 despite the move in England, as the divisions within the UK widened alarmingly;
  • There are complaints that a model suggesting 4,000 people a day could be dying from coronavirus by next month could be four or five times too high and is already out of date; 
  • SAGE experts have claimed thousands of lives could have been saved if the government had moved to lock down earlier.
Anger that blood-curdling briefing on lockdown ‘bounced’ PM into action

Boris Johnson (pictured in Downing Street today) announced at a press conference on Saturday night that England is being plunged into another lockdown to stop the spread of coronavirus

Ministers warn ‘all bets are off’ on Christmas unless lockdown works

Cabinet ministers have warned ‘all bets are off’ on families being able to celebrate Christmas together if Boris Johnson’s national lockdown fails to curb coronavirus infection rates.

The Prime Minister’s England-wide shutdown is due to start on Thursday and the Government’s aim is to lift the blanket restrictions on December 2.

However, the Government has failed to guarantee that will be a firm exit date amid fears the shutdown could be extended over the festive period and even into the new year.

Ministers believe the ‘lag’ between the point of infection and the point at which people can become seriously ill could mean that the death figures are still surging even by the end of the lockdown.

That could fuel calls for the draconian measures to be kept in place until the start of 2021 or beyond.

The Prime Minister is set to use a statement to the Commons this afternoon to say there is ‘no alternative’ but to impose four weeks of blanket restrictions across England to wrestle down the resurgent virus.

Mr Johnson will move to reassure MPs that he will ‘seek to ease’ curbs and return to the localised tiered system on December 2, following suggestions from Mr Gove yesterday the lockdown could be extended again.

Mr Sunak tried to soothe angry Tory backbenchers this morning insisting the lockdown measures will be legally ended on the date.

He said the ‘hope and expectation’ was that the virus would be at a low enough level by then to ease the curbs, although he admitted they will be kept under review.

However, government sources have been warning that lockdown could stretch well into next month if hospitalisations remain high and that ‘all bets are off’ for Christmas.

Sir Keir Starmer has said Labour will vote with the Government, meaning the lockdown will likely sail through the Commons.

But the PM has come under fire from his own side and will face stiff opposition from hawkish Tory backbenchers gearing up to rebel against the measures.

Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the powerful 1922 committee, led the backlash of MPs, telling the BBC’s Westminster Hour last night: ‘I think the aspect of the lockdown restrictions that actually bother me most would be the extent of intrusion in what ordinarily we see as fundamental human rights; the freedom of association, the right to family life, we even now have the Government telling us who we can sleep with or not depending on if they’re deemed to be in an established relationship.

‘If these kinds of measures were being taken in any totalitarian country around the world we would be denouncing it as a form of evil. And here the removal of people’s fundamental liberties is going almost without comment.’

Anger that blood-curdling briefing on lockdown 'bounced' PM into action

Anger that blood-curdling briefing on lockdown 'bounced' PM into action

Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the powerful 1922 committee, led the Tory backlash warning that the government curbs on civil liberties were 'evil'

Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the powerful 1922 committee, led the Tory backlash warning that the government curbs on civil liberties were ‘evil’

Questions over dossier prediction of 4,000 deaths per day

The 4,000 deaths per day scenario was based on the assumption that there would be 1,000 per day by the start of November. Real numbers of people dying are significantly lower, with an average 182 per day in England and 162 confirmed yesterday for the whole UK

The 4,000 deaths per day scenario was based on the assumption that there would be 1,000 per day by the start of November. Real numbers of people dying are significantly lower, with an average 182 per day in England and 162 confirmed yesterday for the whole UK

The claim that 4,000 people could be dying from coronavirus by next month could be four or five times too high and not reflect the current situation, experts warn.

The shocking figure was presented by chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance in Saturday’s TV briefing where Boris Johnson announced the UK’s second lockdown.

But there are concerns that it’s out of date and inaccurate, with SAGE accused of ‘misleading’ the public and MPs by cherry-picking the scariest data.

Professor Carl Heneghan, of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at the University of Oxford, said he ‘cannot understand why they have used this data’.

The forecast could be four or five times too high, he said, because it is based on there being an average 1,000 deaths per day in the UK right now. In reality the daily average was 182 per day October 22 and 28, according to Department of Health data.

The number, which appeared as the worst case on a graph with three other possible scenarios, was created by statisticians at the University of Cambridge and Public Health England who have since revised their numbers and lowered the possible numbers of deaths. The team’s forecasts are not published online, like some of their other work, but are sent directly to SPI-M, a sub-group of SAGE, to do with it what they choose.

A potential 4,000 fatalities per day if there are no changes to restrictions was almost twice as high as the second worst case, which put them at a touch higher than 2,000 per day.

The lowest estimates in the no-action scenario estimated deaths at just below 2,000 per day, and all were higher than the peak in the first wave, when the most deaths were recorded on April 8 (1,073). 

Tory ex-minister Sir Desmond Swayne said it would take a ‘huge amount of persuasion for me to vote for this disastrous course of action’.

Former Cabinet minister Esther McVey said she would vote against them because the ”lockdown cure’ is causing more harm than Covid’.

Backbencher Peter Bone told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning he had not yet decided how to vote on the measures outlined by Prime Minister Boris Johnson when they are debated in the Commons on Wednesday.

Hitting out at ‘unreadable graphs’ at the press conference, Mr Bone said: ‘At the moment, I have not been convinced that I should vote on Wednesday with the Government.

Some of those on the backbenches were even calling for Mr Johnson to go. He’s on borrowed time, totally inept,’ one source told The Times.

‘I think it could be his Suez,’ a former cabinet minister told the paper, in a reference to the 1950s crisis that led to Anthony Eden’s resignation.

A minister told the paper: ‘He’s been overrun by the virus and by his ‘advisers.’ They are nasty, they misunderstand the parliamentary party, and above all are totally, totally sh*t. Over the last week — with the row over free school meals and this — I think we’ve lost the next election.’

The row over the leaks from the ‘Quad’ has become so serious that No10 is threatening to call in the police.

One Cabinet source told the Telegraph: ‘They are going studs up on the leak. They will do everything possible. ‘If they have to bring the police into this they will do that. That is the level of seriousness this is being treated at.

‘The sentiment – particularly among Cabinet ministers – is that when they find the leaker they should be absolutely punished. You can imagine how the Chief Whip feels.’

Sources insisted Sir Patrick’s briefing came at a normal off the record discussion with journalists.

Meanwhile, it has been announced that Sir Patrick and Prof Whitty are due to be grilled by the Commons Science Committee tomorrow about the new restrictions.

Mr Johnson announced the second lockdown – which will begin on Thursday following the Commons vote the day before – during a Downing Street press conference on Saturday night.

A worst case prediction of as many as 4,000 deaths a day by Christmas without action being taken was the final straw for a Prime Minister who had previously ruled out such a move as his ‘nuclear deterrent’.

Pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops will be forced to close, although, unlike the first lockdown in March, schools will remain open.

Addressing MPs in the House of Commons this afternoon, he is expected to say: ‘Models of our scientists suggest that unless we act now, we could see deaths over the winter that are twice as bad or more compared with the first wave.

‘Faced with these latest figures, there is no alternative but to take further action at a national level.

‘I know some in the House believe we should have reached this decision earlier, but I believe it was right to try every possible option to get this virus under control at a local level, with strong local action and strong local leadership.’

The Prime Minister will, however, stop short of guaranteeing that the national lockdown will end on December 2 as proposed.

PM begs Tory MPs to trust him over lockdown plan

Boris Johnson will today beg mutinous Tory MPs to keep the faith in his coronavirus strategy by warning deaths this winter could be double the first wave unless they back his blanket lockdown.

The Prime Minister will use a statement to the Commons this afternoon to say there is ‘no alternative’ about imposing four weeks of draconian curbs across England to wrestle down the resurgent virus.

Mr Johnson will move to reassure MPs that he will ‘seek to ease’ the crackdown on December 2 and return to the localised tiered system, despite suggestions from Michael Gove yesterday the time could be extended beyond Christmas.

Rishi Sunak tried to soothe angry Tory backbenchers this morning by insisting the measures will be legally ended on the date.

He said the ‘hope and expectation’ was that the virus would be at a low enough level by then, although he admitted they will be kept under review.

However Cabinet ministers are privately warning that lockdown could stretch well into next month if hospitalisations remain high and that ‘all bets are off’ for Christmas.

Sir Keir Starmer has said Labour will vote with the Government, meaning the lockdown will likely sail through the Commons.

But hawkish Tory backbenchers are gearing up for a damaging revolt, warning that the limits on freedoms are like in a ‘totalitarian state’.

Mr Johnson will say: ‘At the end of four weeks, on Wednesday 2 December, we will seek to ease restrictions, going back into the tiered system on a local and regional basis according to the latest data and trends.’

But a Whitehall source said: ‘The next three or four months are going to be very tough.

‘Hopefully we can ease things up a bit after a month, but that isn’t certain and we are still going to have to keep our foot on the brake to a certain extent.

‘So far, Tier Three is the only thing short of lockdown shown to have worked at all. It is reducing the R-rate – only very slowly, and the rate is still above one – but it does work to stop things getting worse.

‘With Tier Two, it is much harder to say it is working. Maybe it would if compliance was better, but so far it is not reducing the R-rate – it is not a solution.’

Mr Sunak is regarded as the leading Cabinet hawk on the need to keep the economy running, and has been forced to deny claims that he threatened to resign.

But speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Sunak said when medical and science experts briefed senior ministers last week it was clear the only ‘responsible’ course was to impose a national lockdown.

‘What’s clear is that the virus is spreading even faster than the reasonable worse case of our scientific advisers,’ he said.

‘And the models suggested that, unless we acted, we would see deaths in this country running at levels in excess of where they were in the spring – a peak of mortality far higher,’ the Chancellor said.

‘And we saw incidents, even in areas where it’s currently low, rising at a very rapid rate, which would mean that, in a matter of weeks, the NHS would be overwhelmed.’

Mr Sunak gave a stark warning that unemployment is set to rise due to the clampdown.

‘Close to three-quarters of a million people have already tragically lost their jobs and sadly many more will,’ he said.

‘That is going to happen as a result of the restrictions we are putting in place’

Mr Suank tried to reassure angry Tory backbenchers by insisting the lockdown measures will be legally ended on December 2.

He said the ‘hope and expectation’ was that the virus would be at a low enough level by then to ease the curbs, although he admitted they will be kept under review.

Pressed on whether the R rate was key to restrictions being lifted on that date, Rishi Sunak said: ‘It would be wrong to say there was one single indicator.

‘There is a range of different things we look at.’

Asked if self-employment support would rise to 80 per cent of usual profits from around 40 per cent currently, the Chancellor stressed the grants cover a longer period than the furlough scheme.

Recovery, a campaign group against lockdowns, beams its message: 'Lockdowns don't work' onto the Houses of Parliament in Westminster

Recovery, a campaign group against lockdowns, beams its message: ‘Lockdowns don’t work’ onto the Houses of Parliament in Westminster

Shares plunge on lockdown news

Boris Johnson‘s new lockdown plan sent shares in retail and leisure firms plummeting today as the stock market reacted to his hastily released plans.

British Airways owner IAG, Wetherspoons, Cineworld, JD Sports, EasyJet and pub and restaurant owner Mitchells and Butlers all saw heavy falls in their share price this morning.

Airlines, pubs and non-essential retail are set to be put back into a deep freeze for at least four weeks from Thursday.

But there were also winners from the plans to shut all non-essential retailers until December 2.

Ocado, Just Eat Takeaway, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and B&Q owner Kingfisher all saw a boost in shares as investors anticipated an increase in sales for online food delivery and DIY businesses.

Ocado announced profits will now be higher than previously thought – sending shares up nearly 8 per cent within an hour of the stock market’s 8am opening.

‘Directionally of travel, the 40 per cent will go up to reflect the fact that at least one of those months of support will be at a higher level for those who are in employment,’ Mr Sunak said.

Mr Gove said yesterday that it was his ‘fervent hope’ that the restrictions could be ended as planned – but admitted that an extension may be necessary.

He said ministers would be ‘guided by the facts’, adding: ‘We do need to get the R rate below 1.’

Asked whether an extension was possible, he told Sky News: ‘Yes.’

The PM is said to have been torn by the decision to go back into lockdown because of the impact it would have on people’s lives and jobs – but felt he had no choice when presented with data showing the NHS was on course to be overwhelmed within weeks.

One ally said: ‘It breaks his heart to do things that mean businesses are going to close down and people are going to lose their jobs. He is a free-market Conservative who doesn’t want to do any of this stuff.

‘But we are talking about a situation where the NHS would be unable to accept new patients through the door. You are talking about people dying in hospital corridors and car parks. It is morally impossible for any government to sanction that. And it’s probably not politically survivable.’

 Restive Tory MPs last night demanded the Government produce an exit plan, or an alternative strategy, to ensure the country is not trapped in a cycle of repeated lockdowns.

Charles Walker, who represents Broxbourne in Hertfordshire, said: ‘The lockdown is like a nightmare that we’ll never wake up from – a dream where whatever door you open to escape leads back to the same place. We can’t keep doing the same thing because it doesn’t work.’

A Cabinet minister warned the Times that Christmas plans for many will wrecked if the R rate remains high.

One economist predicted as much as £1.8billion could be wiped off the value of the economy every day that lockdown lasts.

Lord Rose, the former Marks & Spencer boss, said the reintroduction of restrictions was a disaster.

Churches call for exemptions from curbs

Senior clergy are writing to the Government to question why key elements of services have not been exempted from lockdown.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and the Bishop of London say they will also emphasise the “critical role” that churches play in the community.

In a letter written to the clergy of the Church of England (CoE), Justin Welby, Stephen Cottrell and Sarah Mullally praised the “energy, hard work and creativity” of members which had allowed worship to continue during the pandemic.

“We are grateful that the new guidelines being introduced on Thursday not only allow churches to remain open for private prayer but also enable online worship to be broadcast from the church building,” they said.

“We were cautious about these issues during the first lockdown – perhaps overly so – but in this second lockdown we want to encourage church buildings to remain open for private prayer wherever possible.”

The bishops said that more resources and training would be given to church leaders to enable them to conduct services online.

But they added that the use of sacraments was an integral part of physical services and should not be viewed as an “optional extra” by the Government.

‘My estimate is that for every day it carries on, you can say it is between two and three weeks of recovery time,’ he added. ‘So, if it goes on for a month, that’s possibly a year’s recovery time.’

Mark Littlewood, from the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: ‘We have now reached the point – in terms of both our health and our wealth – where the cure is worse than the disease.’

The Prime Minister was given warnings by his chief scientific and medical advisers that the NHS could be overwhelmed by Covid-19.

But so far the Department of Health has refused to release the dossier that helped tip England back into lockdown.

The projection of a possible 4,000 daily deaths by Christmas – from Cambridge University in conjunction with Public Health England – significantly outstripped all other estimates.

Meanwhile, senior clergy are writing to the Government to question why ‘certain exemptions’ have not been made.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and the Bishop of London say they will also emphasise the ‘critical role’ that churches play in the community.

In a letter written to the clergy of the Church of England (CoE), Justin Welby, Stephen Cottrell and Sarah Mullally praised the ‘energy, hard work and creativity’ of members which had allowed worship to continue during the pandemic.

‘We are grateful that the new guidelines being introduced on Thursday not only allow churches to remain open for private prayer but also enable online worship to be broadcast from the church building,’ they said.

‘We were cautious about these issues during the first lockdown – perhaps overly so – but in this second lockdown we want to encourage church buildings to remain open for private prayer wherever possible.’

The bishops said that more resources and training would be given to church leaders to enable them to conduct services online.

But they added that the use of sacraments was an integral part of physical services and should not be viewed as an ‘optional extra’ by the Government.

Second lockdown will be the ‘final death blow’ for thousands of British businesses, industry leaders warn as leading economist predicts new measures will cost £1.8billion per day

A second lockdown will be the ‘final death blow’ for thousands of British businesses, industry leaders warned last night.

As one leading economist predicted the lockdown will cost the UK £1.8billion per day, bosses of businesses from Waterstones to Rocco Forte Hotels lashed out at the ‘disastrous’ restrictions which could devastate the High Street.

Economist Douglas McWilliams, founder of the Centre for Economics and Business Research, said shutting the country down for at least a month from Thursday will wipe £1.8billion off the value of the economy for every day it lasts.

He forecasts the gloom to push into next year, meaning the UK’s coronavirus recession is likely to last until the spring.

As Christmas parties are cancelled and High Streets are closed, businesses and consumers are expected to slash their spending. This will have a knock-on effect on the public purse as VAT takings slump.

Shoppers queue outside Ikea in Batley, West Yorkshire, on Sunday - one day after new national lockdown measures were announced which will come into place from Thursday

Shoppers queue outside Ikea in Batley, West Yorkshire, on Sunday – one day after new national lockdown measures were announced which will come into place from Thursday

A queue of shoppers snaked along a road outside a Costco in Watford on Sunday

A queue of shoppers snaked along a road outside a Costco in Watford on Sunday

A Costco shopper in Birmingham filled his trolley to the brim with toilet roll, cans and various other groceries

A Costco shopper in Birmingham filled his trolley to the brim with toilet roll, cans and various other groceries

And as more businesses struggle to make ends meet and teeter on the brink of collapse, job losses are expected to rise despite the extension of the furlough scheme.

Rishi was reluctant to accept shutdown … but he did NOT threaten to resign

Rishi Sunak was reluctant to agree to the second national lockdown in light of the threat to the economy and the huge £5billion cost of furlough, sources said last night.

The Chancellor was one of those at the Downing Street meeting on Friday which decided to go ahead with new restrictive measures.

A source said there was a ‘collective decision’ to back a second lockdown, and that Mr Sunak ‘accepted it’ – and he did not threaten to resign, as some whispers around Westminster were suggesting yesterday.

‘There was a presentation from the scientists,’ the source said. ‘The data was put to them and there wasn’t a great deal to say.’ Boris Johnson and Mr Sunak had been hoping to avoid a second lockdown, over fears of its devastating impact on business and jobs.

But the figures presented to them – predicting that the NHS would be overwhelmed – were so stark that it was not possible to argue against. The fact that France and Germany had both recently embarked on national lockdowns also made it hard not to go along with the recommendations.

Mr Sunak agreed that the full furlough scheme, worth 80 per cent of wages, will be reinstated for the duration of the second lockdown. This could cost the taxpayer as much as £5billion over the next month. But there are fears the cost will rise if, as expected, the lockdown drags on.

This will blow a hole in household finances, according to accountancy firm EY, which is expecting banks to increase the number of loans they have to write off as customers fail to meet repayments.

Sir Rocco Forte, chairman of Rocco Forte Hotels, said: ‘The hospitality industry and the whole entertainment industry is already on its knees and this is the final death blow.

‘You can have furlough and other schemes which reduce the business outgoings, but if you have no income you can’t survive. It’s a never-ending nightmare – the second lockdown is a disaster.’

The restrictions come as restaurants and pubs were gearing up for the Christmas rush in an effort to make back some of the income they had lost over spring and summer. Des Gunewardena, co-founder of restaurant chain D&D London which runs venues such as Bluebird Chelsea, said: ‘December is an absolutely crucial month for our business. It’s really important that the Government does everything they can to get cases under control so we can open up for four weeks.’

John O’Reilly, chief executive of Rank Group which owns 77 Mecca bingo halls and 51 Grosvenor casinos, added: ‘Hospitality businesses like ours are forced to lean into another month of misery after a series of setbacks and restrictions.’

Retailers are also gearing up for a ‘catastrophic’ Christmas as shoppers shun the High Street.

James Daunt, chief executive of Waterstones, said: ‘In the longer term I’m really worried about what the High Street we’re on will look like in the spring.

‘We really need the independent and smaller retailers around us to make up the ecosystem.’

The number of visitors across all brick-and-mortar shops is expected to plunge by 62 per cent on last year between November 22 and December 26, according to data company Springboard.

High Streets will be hit harder than other locations, such as shopping centres and retail parks, with an 87 per cent drop in visitors.

Despite the lockdown being due to end on December 2, Springboard thinks shoppers will be trying to save money and will prefer to shop online.

Diane Wehrle, of Springboard, said the measures were ‘catastrophic for the retail industry’. She said: ‘Most consumers are likely to have completed a vast amount of shopping online in advance and may well have fears of returning to brick-and-mortar stores.’

The anger from business leaders came as the CEBR warned that the second wave of coronavirus cases could slash 5 to 10 per cent off economies in the Western world every month that restrictions last.

Mr McWilliams said: ‘Losing a lot of Christmas-related spending will have a distinct impact since December retail sales are about 50 per cent higher than the monthly average.’

A Covid-19 testing site in Leicester, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new national lockdown will come into force in England next week

A Covid-19 testing site in Leicester, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new national lockdown will come into force in England next week

Shelves are emptied of toilet rolls at a Tesco store in Grimsby as swathes of customers race to bulk-buy household essentials on Sunday

Shelves are emptied of toilet rolls at a Tesco store in Grimsby as swathes of customers race to bulk-buy household essentials on Sunday

And as unemployment bites, many British households will struggle to make ends meet, according to EY.

The firm predicts banks will have to write off 2.5 per cent of loans to consumers next year – up from 1.3 per cent this year and a near-decade high.

Mark Littlewood, of think-tank the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: ‘We have now reached the point – in terms of both our health and our wealth – where the cure is worse than the disease.’

Timeline of the 24 hours that shaped lockdown 2.0: How leak of plans for a new four-week shutdown in November and the subsequent political chaos forced Boris Johnson into action – and caused havoc on Strictly Come Dancing

Here is how the bombshell period in coronavirus politics played out:

Friday, October 31

Anger that blood-curdling briefing on lockdown 'bounced' PM into action

PM Boris Johnson was given hard facts about real people in hospital beds, and the debate was effectively over

2pm: Sir Patrick Vallance underlines SAGE’s call for a national lockdown at a briefing with reporters, saying it is ‘not too late to save Christmas’

He urges the closure of all pubs and restaurants and venues where households mix indoors.

It comes after a Government-led study by Imperial College London had been published showing that nearly 100,000 people in the UK are getting infected with Covid-19 every day.

Anger that blood-curdling briefing on lockdown 'bounced' PM into action

Anger that blood-curdling briefing on lockdown 'bounced' PM into action

Anger that blood-curdling briefing on lockdown 'bounced' PM into action

Anger that blood-curdling briefing on lockdown 'bounced' PM into action

Anger that blood-curdling briefing on lockdown 'bounced' PM into action

Anger that blood-curdling briefing on lockdown 'bounced' PM into action

Anger that blood-curdling briefing on lockdown 'bounced' PM into action

Heat maps were presented at the press conference showing that the infections were spreading among older age groups

Heat maps were presented at the press conference showing that the infections were spreading among older age groups

Anger that blood-curdling briefing on lockdown 'bounced' PM into action

The REACT-1 project – which has been swabbing tens of thousands of people every week – estimated there were around 96,000 people getting infected every day in England by October 25.

French President Emmanuel Macron  has already announced a second national lockdown until the end of November and German Chancellor Angela Merkel also announces a ‘lockdown lite’ which  is less severe but includes the closure of restaurants, gyms and theatres.

3pm: Papers are released online from a SAGE meeting which show that advisers warned ministers on October 14 that the UK could be headed for a situation more serious than the scientists’ ‘worst case scenario’.

They say ‘we are breaching the number of infections and hospital admissions in the Reasonable Worst Case planning scenario’ and the outlook for Covid-19’s future spread was ‘concerning’ if no action was taken.

The SAGE papers warn that modelling suggests up to 74,000 people a day could be becoming infected in England alone, far beyond the worst case scenario.

3.30pm: The all-powerful Covid Quad committee, which has taken all the key strategic decisions during the pandemic, met in the Cabinet Office on Friday, along with 20 experts.

Boris Johnson, chairing the committee meeting, fought what one source called a ‘valiant battle’ to keep the country open, ‘arguing with himself’ and endorsing many of his Chancellor’s hawkish warnings about the economic carnage it would entail.

Every time Health Secretary Matt Hancock made his arguments in favour of the lockdown, he was supported by fellow ‘dove’ Mr Gove.

Both Ministers were emboldened by France and Germany’s move into full lockdown.

The Prime Minister continued to back his Chancellor, until a chilling submission by Sir Simon Stevens, the head of the NHS, which effectively condemned the country to another month of confinement.

EARLY EVENING: Downing Street is informed that ITV political editor Robert Peston has received a ‘read-out of the whole meeting’, according to the Times.

The Prime Minister continued to back Rishi Sunak's hopes of keeping the economy open until a chilling submission by Sir Simon Stevens, the head of the NHS, which effectively condemned the country to another month of confinement.

The Prime Minister continued to back Rishi Sunak’s hopes of keeping the economy open until a chilling submission by Sir Simon Stevens, the head of the NHS, which effectively condemned the country to another month of confinement.

Anger that blood-curdling briefing on lockdown 'bounced' PM into action

Anger that blood-curdling briefing on lockdown 'bounced' PM into action

Anger that blood-curdling briefing on lockdown 'bounced' PM into action

Anger that blood-curdling briefing on lockdown 'bounced' PM into action

Anger that blood-curdling briefing on lockdown 'bounced' PM into action

Anger that blood-curdling briefing on lockdown 'bounced' PM into action

10.30PM: No10’s plans to shut-down England for at least a month have also been leaked to the Daily Mail and are revealed when the first edition of Saturday’s paper drops.

The Mail learns that SAGE told ministers Covid-19 is spreading ‘significantly’ faster than even their original ‘worst-case scenario’ prediction.

Downing Street is furious to read details of the lockdown in the first editions of the Saturday newspapers, hours after the decision had been taken by Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak, Michael Gove and Matt Hancock.

The leak means that the shutdown was on the front pages before the rest of the Cabinet had been told and sparks widespread anger among politicians and business leaders.

Saturday, October 31

7AM: BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg reveals some of the information shown to the quad involves daily deaths could top 4,000

Anger that blood-curdling briefing on lockdown 'bounced' PM into action

11am: Boris Johnson calls an unscheduled Cabinet briefing to update furious ministers on his plans. With just hours to go he also calls a hastily arranged live television press conference for 4pm to brief the nation about his plans.

11am: Downing Street launches an investigation to find the source of the story, amid reports that the Government had wanted to keep the plan quiet until Monday.

Multiple Government sources sought to pin the blame on Matt Hancock by accusing him of trying to ‘bump’ the Prime Minister into announcing the lockdown before he could have second thoughts. The Health Secretary strenuously denied the claims.

However, other sources pointed the finger at Mr Gove – the other ‘dove’ in the quad – and suggested that Mr Hancock was being made the ‘fall guy’ for the leak.

Both ministers have flatly denied the allegation.

1.30pm: Cabinet meets virtually, with the PM dialling in from Downing Street. It lasts more than an hour

2.30pm: The press conference is pushed back to 5pm, suggesting that the lockdown plans are still being hammered out and argued over by ministers.

3:40pm: Mr Peston tweets a summary of the measures Mr Johnson will be announcing at the press conference, following the Cabinet meeting.

3.58pm: The BBC’s Nick Eardly reveals similar details about what is going to be announced.

Anger that blood-curdling briefing on lockdown 'bounced' PM into action

Anger that blood-curdling briefing on lockdown 'bounced' PM into action

4.50PM: The press conference is pushed back to 6.30pm.

5PM: It emerges that Mr Johnson has apologised to Conservative MPs and tells them that he will launch an inquiry to find the ‘culprit’ who leaked details of the new lockdown before his announcement.

 Mr Johnson sends a message to Conservative MPs on WhatsApp to apologise and warn there are ‘no easy short term options’. ‘Folks – so sorry that you’ve had to hear about all this from the newspapers today,’ he wrote.

‘Let me assure you that the leak was not a No10 briefing and indeed we have launched an inquiry to catch the culprit. I had hoped to make the announcement in parliament on Monday but to avoid any further uncertainty I’ll now do a press conference from Downing Street this evening.

‘My team will make sure you have access to all the data and briefing from scientists you need in the coming days. Please speak to your whip if you have anything to feed in.

‘I assure you we are doing what we believe is best for the country and to ensure that the NHS is not overwhelmed in a way that could cost many thousands of lives.

‘There is a clear way out of this, with better medication and rapid testing – and the genuine prospect of a vaccine. Our country will recover well. But I am afraid there are no easy short term options. Best Boris.’

6:45PM: Boris Johnson, joined by Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Adviser Professor Patrice Vallance, finally fronts the delayed press conference.

Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty

Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty

The press conference runs for just under half an hour, cutting into the broadcast of the latest Strictly Come Dancing episode.

The broadcasters had already axed Little Mix’s talent show for a 4pm address, and when it was moved back to 5pm, a half-hour news special was put in at 4.30pm, hosted by Reeta Chakrabarti.

However, she was still presenting the programme at 7.13pm, so Mastermind was also axed.

7.14PM: Strictly contestants and production staff find out it was still going on air just seconds before the network started playing the introduction music at around 7.14pm – four minutes after the time it was originally scheduled to begin.

The press conference runs for just under half an hour, cutting into the broadcast of the latest Strictly Come Dancing episode

The press conference runs for just under half an hour, cutting into the broadcast of the latest Strictly Come Dancing episode

Sources on the show said that at one point it was expected that the show would be moved to a later day as no information had come from the scheduling department.

One said last night: ‘We had no idea what was going on. The time kept getting away from us.

‘It was total chaos. There were phone calls being made back and forth, but nobody knew what Boris and his team were doing so everyone on the Strictly team was left hanging. You can imagine the nerves backstage among the dancers.’

Fans on Twitter also poked fun at the situation. Broadcaster Matt Chorley wrote: ‘Of all the highly dangerous things this Government has done, f***ing about with the start of Strictly seems the most risky.’

SATURDAY EVENING: 

Tory backbench lockdown hawks vent their anger at the new announcement.

Sir Robert Syms, an ex-Tory whip, suggested that No10 had not properly ‘audited progress’ made by the three-tier system which sees restrictions with varying degrees of severity placed on individual regions.

Sir Robert tweeted: ‘I am open to more measures [but] we have a regional approach which we have not given time to work. If we need to tweak it, fine, let’s measure what works and discard what does not. At the moment the Government is getting bounced into a change before we have audited progress.’

Desmond Swayne, the Conservative MP for New Forest West, described the move as ‘disastrous’ and accused Cabinet ministers of behaving like ‘headless chickens’.

Mr Swayne said: ‘Lockdowns make everyone poorer and poor people even poorer. I fear more people will die sooner than they would have as a consequence of the decision.

‘In a bad flu season 80,000 people die, but we don’t behave like headless chickens.’

Sir Charles Walker, the vice-chairman of the 1922 Committee, told the BBC: ‘There has to be another way of doing this. If you want first world public services, you need a first world economy.’

Anger that blood-curdling briefing on lockdown 'bounced' PM into action

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