PRIME Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed a second national lockdown for England is set to begin on Thursday.

Speaking at a press conference at 10 Downing Street alongside some of the Government's top medical advisors, Mr Johnson confirmed that the lockdown will last until December 2.

He said the only reasons to leave home could be for education, exercise and work where working from home is not possible, medical appointments, to escape harm, to shop for essentials or to care for vulnerable people.

MPs will vote on the move on Wednesday, and it is likely to be voted through, with Labour having spent recent weeks calling for such a lockdown.

Mr Johnson also confirmed that the furlough scheme will continue in its current form throughout November, having been due to come to an end tonight.

He said: "We know the cost of these restrictions, the damage they do.

"No one wants to be imposing these kinds of measures anywhere.

"But we have got to be humble in the face of nature and in this country, as elsewhere in Europe, the virus is spreading even faster than the reasonable worst case scenario of our scientific advisors."

However, Mr Johnson insisted that the R value of coronavirus infection 'has been kept lower than it otherwise would have been' due to the local restrictions.

He said doctors and nurses would be 'forced to choose which patients to treat' if exponential growth of the coronavirus continued in England, while non-Covid patients would be 'deprived of the care they need', if no action was taken.

Restrictions will not be as tight as during the spring lockdown, as schools, colleges and universities will remain open, as well as workplaces where staff cannot work from home.

Supermarkets and shops selling essential items will be allowed to remain open, as will take-aways.

But shops selling 'non-essential items', bars and restaurants, salons and entertainment venues are among the businesses that will close.

People will only be able to meet one other person from outside their own household or support bubble in public outdoor settings, while households and bubbles are banned from mixing indoors or in private gardens.

People who were shielding in the last lockdown will not be placed under the same restrictions this time around, but are advised to take extra care.

NHS patients are also urged to continue to access the healthcare they need unless explicitly told not to by a clinician, amid concerns people will miss vital appointments.

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From left: Sir Patrick Vallance, Boris Johnson and Prof Chris Whitty at this evening's press conference. Image: PA

Prof Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England, told the press conference that 'virtually the entire country' was now seeing a 'significant rate of increase' in Covid-19.

He added that data from the Office for National Statistics also shows the prevalence of coronavirus had increased to 'around 50,000 new cases a day, and that is rising'.

Hospital admissions across England are also rising in 'virtually every age group', Prof Whitty said, although he insisted social distancing was preventing a further increase in Covid-19 cases.

On hospital admissions, he added: "If we do nothing, the inevitable result is that these numbers will go up and they will eventually exceed the peak that we saw in the spring of this year."

Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government's chief scientific advisor, told reporters that continued growth of the virus in the winter period could see death figures with 'the potential to be twice as bad or more' than the first wave.

Mr Johnson also told reporters that work is stepping up on a mass testing programme for Covid-19 ‘in the coming days’.

He added: "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.”