Boris Johnson instructed the country to “stay at home” after coronavirus cases rocketed in the days after Christmas, warning that the new Covid-19 strain threatened to overwhelm the NHS within 21 days.
But charities have warned that people experiencing homelessness and in vulnerable housing must be protected, demanding a return of the Everyone In scheme and eviction ban introduced for the first lockdown in March 2020.
Mr Johnson said the number of Covid patients in hospital increased by 27,000 in the last week, 40 per cent higher than during the first peak of the pandemic in April.
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He said the Government is “instructing” everyone to stay at home apart from in exceptional circumstances, adding: “The weeks ahead will be the hardest yet, but I really do believe we are entering the last stage of this struggle.”
The new Tier 5 measures are effective immediately and are expected to be passed into law on Wednesday, following similar measures introduced in Scotland on Monday night.
Shadow Housing Secretary Thangam Debbonaire has been calling for the Everyone In scheme to be reintroduced since October 2020, before the second lockdown, and told The Big Issue in December that there was a risk the gains from the Everyone In scheme will be lost if it is not continued this winter.
Following Johnson’s announcement, Debbonaire told The Big Issue: “The public health situation is extremely serious, with those sleeping rough at higher risk than almost any other group.
“Nobody should spend winter on the streets, especially during the hardest period of this pandemic.”
At its peak the first Everyone In scheme helped 15,000 rough sleepers and vulnerable people off the streets and into temporary housing in hotels and other emergency accommodation.
— Jon Sparkes (@jon_sparkes) January 4, 2021
Jon Sparkes, chief executive of homelessness charity Crisis, urged the Westminster Government to “again ensure lives are saved” through Everyone In and prioritising vaccinations for homeless people with medical conditions.
“Hundreds of deaths were prevented in the first wave of the pandemic when emergency accommodation was provided to anyone rough sleeping. However, since then thousands of people have become street homeless,” said Sparkes.
“Now with transmissibility of the new SARS-CoV-2 variant substantially higher, so is the risk to life of people on the streets. We urge the UK government to repeat the same level of support provided at the start of the pandemic and again ensure lives are saved.
“Emergency accommodation must be urgently provided to all people rough sleeping, without exception.”
The new Tier 5 Covid-19 measures have also triggered calls for the eviction ban to be reintroduced to protect renters hit by the pandemic.
Campaigners Generation Rent want the ban, initially running from March to September and a four-week “winter truce” over Christmas, to be brought back for the duration of the new lockdown to stop people who see their income hit by the new measures from facing court action and falling into homelessness.
Alicia Kennedy, Generation Rent director, said: “During the first lockdown, renters who had received an eviction notice still felt pressure to move out, which is why we’re calling the government to do all it can to prevent unnecessary house moves by suspending evictions.”