England plunged into second full scale lockdown despite revolt against Boris Johnson

UK Covid-19 deaths second highest on record just below May peak

A pedestrian wearing a mask because of the novel coronavirus pandemic walks in central Manchester, north west England on November 4, 2020, as the country prepares for a second Covid-19 lockdown in an effort to combat soaring infections. England heads into a second national lockdown on November 5. / AFP / Oli SCARFF

With a heavy tone of regret for the hardships ahead, Boris Johnson sent England in to a second Covid-19 lockdown on Thursday as the pandemic death rate continued to rachet higher to levels last seen in May.

The UK prime minister survived a rebellion of Conservative MPs against the new rules that require people to stay at home and shuts all non-essential shops and leisure outlets.

The country reported 492 deaths from the virus on Wednesday, and new daily infections 25,177, the second highest figure on record after a peak in May.

Mr Johnson said the country's health service would be in “extraordinary trouble” without urgent action to curb the virus, with sick patients turned away and doctors forced to make “impossible choices” on who would receive oxygen.

However there was considerable disquiet in the ruling Conservative Party. Theresa May, the former prime minister, questioned the data used to justify the lockdown, particularly the worst-case projection of 4,000 deaths a day without intervention.

“For many people, it looks as if the figures are chosen to support the policy rather than the policy being based on the figures,” she said. told MPs.

A total of 38 MPs voted against the lockdown but the motion was carried with backing from the opposition.

The new regulations take effect Thursday, enforcing the closing of pubs, gyms and non-essential shops and restricting household mixing is due to remain in force until December 2.

Italy registered 30,550 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours. Rome is imposing a new curfew at 10pm from Thursday. Poland also reported extremely high numbers with more than 25,000 infections registered on Wednesday. Austria hit a new record of 6,211 infections.

There was some relief for Germany as its infection rate slipped to 7,533 coronavirus cases, down from 17,538 a day earlier.

Officials in Denmark said a new strain of Covid-19 had emerged after an outbreak in the country’s mink population led to a mutation of the virus. The development might hamper efforts to develop a vaccine.

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said “there is a risk that the effect of a future vaccine will be weakened or, in a worst case scenario, be undermined."