PRIME Minister Boris Johnson announced this evening that, from Thursday, there will be a national lockdown.

Professor Chris Whitty warned that the prevalence of coronavirus has been increasing “extremely rapidly” in recent weeks.

Citing Office for National Statistics data, the chief medical officer for England told the Downing Street press conference: “The prevalence of this disease has been going up extremely rapidly over the last few weeks, having been very flat due to the work of everybody in the country over spring and summer.

“And we now have around 50,000 new cases a day and that is rising.”

Professor Chris Whitty said the number of people in NHS beds in England will exceed the peak of the first wave without further measures.

The chief medical officer for England told the Downing Street press conference there is an increase in prevalence “in virtually every part of the country”, apart from possibly the North East where stricter measures are in place, and cases are not constrained to one age group.

Discussing NHS bed use in England, he said: “Currently only in the North West is this coming close to the peak that we previously had, but it is increasing in every area.

“And if we do nothing, the inevitable result is these numbers will go up and they will eventually exceed the peak that we saw in the spring of this year.”

Mr Johnson said: “I’m afraid no responsible Prime Minister can ignore the message of those figures.

“We know the cost of these restrictions – the impact on jobs and livelihoods, and people’s mental health. No-one wants to be imposing these measures.”

The Prime Minister thanked people who had been “putting up with” local restrictions.

But he warned: “We’ve got to be humble in the face of nature… the virus is spreading even faster than the reasonable worst case scenario of our scientific advisers.

“Unless we act, we could see deaths in this country running at several thousand a day – a peak of mortality, alas, bigger than the one we saw in April.”

More people could be admitted to hospital over the next six weeks than was seen over the first wave, Sir Patrick Vallance has said.

Projections suggest this would be seen “across the country as a whole” with “some hospitals earlier than others, some a bit later”, Sir Patrick warned.

The models suggest “increasing deaths over the next six weeks”, with a figure close to the first wave peak by December 8 “if nothing is done”.

“Clearly if you stop the R from increasing, if you allow R to come down then you would flatten this off and then potentially reverse it,” Sir Patrick said.

“But on the current trajectory that is what is thought to be the prediction for deaths over the next six weeks and of course that would continue to go up because the hospitalisations already exceeded the first wave peak by this time, deaths would follow.

“So unfortunately that’s a very grim picture in terms of what this looks like in the absence of action and continued growth.”

The Prime Minister said overrunning of the NHS would be a “medical and moral disaster, beyond the raw loss of life”.

He said: “Doctors and nurses would be forced to choose which patients to treat, who would get oxygen and who wouldn’t, who would live and who would die.

“Doctors and nurses would be forced to choose between saving Covid patients and non-Covid patients.

“The sheer weight of Covid demand would mean depriving tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, if not millions of non-Covid patients of the care they need.”

He added: “The risk is, for the first time in our lives, the NHS will not be there for us.”

The Prime Minister said: “I’m under no illusions about how difficult this will be for businesses which have already had to endure such hardship this year and I’m truly, truly sorry for that – and that’s why we’re going to extend the furlough system through November.

“The furlough system was a success in the spring, it supported people in businesses in a critical time. We will not end it, we will extend furlough until December.”

He said the measures would be time-limited from November 5 to December 2, when restrictions would be eased and regions would go back into the tiered system.

He added: “Christmas is going to be different this year, perhaps very different. but it’s my sincere hope and belief that by taking tough action now we can allow families across the country to be together.”

Boris Johnson said “rapid turnaround” tests will be used to reduce the prevalence of the virus, and tests of “whole cities” and will be rolled out within days.

The Prime Minister told the Downing Street press conference: “We now have the immediate prospect of using many millions of cheap, reliable and above all rapid turnaround tests.”

He said these will “drive down the disease”, the Army has been brought in to assist the logistics and a rollout will begin in a “matter of days”.

“Over next few days, weeks, we plan a steady but massive expansion in the deployment of these quick turnaround tests, applying them in an ever-growing number of situations from helping women to have their partners with them in labour wards when they’re giving birth, to testing whole towns and even whole cities,” he said.

Mr Johnson said childcare, early years settings, schools, colleges and universities would remain open.

He added: “We cannot let this virus damage our children’s futures even more than it has already and I urge parents to keep taking their children to school and I’m extremely grateful to teachers across the country for their dedication in enabling schools to remain open.”

He also urged people to continue to use the NHS unless they were told not to by clinicians.

He said plans would be set out to Parliament on Monday and debated on Wednesday.

He said: “We have updated the devolved administrations on the action we’re taking in England and stand ready to work with them on plans for Christmas and beyond.”

He said similar action had been taken in Belgium, France and Germany.

Boris Johnson insisted the new national lockdown is not the same as the “full scale lockdown” of the spring.

The Prime Minister told the Downing Street press conference: “We will get through this but we must act now to contain this autumn’s surge.

“We’re not going back to the full scale lockdown of March and April, the measures I’ve outlined are less restrictive.

“But I’m afraid from Thursday the basic message is the same: Stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.”

Addressing older people and those with existing health issues, Mr Johnson added: “I know how tough shielding was and we will not ask people to shield again in the same way.

“But we are asking those who are clinically extremely vulnerable to minimise their contact with others and not to go to work if they are able to work from home.”

The Prime Minister described the pandemic as “a constant struggle and a balance that any Government has to make between lives and livelihoods, and obviously lives must come first”.

But he told the press conference: “We have to be mindful the whole time of the scarring the long term economic impact of the measures we’re obliged to introduce.”

Defending the choice to initially go for “the regional approach”, Mr Johnson said: “In common with many other parts of this continent we’ve just seen an overall growth rate in the second wave and it has made it absolutely vital to act now to spare to protect our NHS and to save lives.”

He added: “Yes it is true that the course of the pandemic has changed and it’s also right that the Government should change and modulate its response in accordance, and I make absolutely no apologies for that.”

Sir Patrick Vallance described Covid-19 as “a horrible virus” and added “these are horrendous decisions”.

On lockdown, he said: “There’s no doubt from the point of view of the spread of Covid the earlier you go in the better.”

But he added: “People have to take into account other things as well and that’s a matter for politicians.”

The Prime Minister said: “We’ve had to listen to all kinds of scientific advice, some of which tends in very much a different direction from some of the Sage advice that you’ve seen.

“But we also have to balance that scientific advice with the consequences for people’s lives, for people’s mental health, people’s livelihoods that comes from lockdown measures.”

Mr Johnson stressed that schools were not being closed, with construction and manufacturing remaining open too.

“We want to minimise contact and get the R down, and that’s the important thing, that’s the way to protect the NHS,” he said.

“I’m not going to pretend to you that these judgments aren’t incredibly difficult.

“They are incredibly difficult and we have to find the right balance, and we have to change with the changing pattern of the virus, and alas what we’re seeing now is a pretty consistent surge, not just in this country but across many of our friends and partners in Europe, so we have to deal with it.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that efforts had to be made now to tackle the increasing rates in the South West.

He told the press conference: “What we are seeing with the numbers from the South West, it is very clear that the numbers are doubling there as well, and the pressure on the hospitals in the South West is particularly acute.

“We have got to recognise that although the incidence is low in the South West, it is growing.

“We need to tackle it and we need to tackle it now.”

Professor Chris Whitty added: ” Many of the areas which are lower have some of the highest rates of increase, and also some areas including the South West are likely to get pressure on beds really relatively early because of the way the NHS is constructed in those areas.”