UK has reached a ‘perilous turning point’, said Prime Minister Boris Johnson, as he tightens up Covid restrictions for England for up to six months after his top scientific advisers warn urgent action was needed to combat the spike in infections
The Prime Minister addressed the House of Commons to set out his six new Covid restrictions. This was after chairing an emergency COBRA meeting to discuss the introduction of new social distancing measures.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: ‘we have reached a perilous turning point.
‘The government will introduce new restrictions in England carefully judges to receive the maximum reduction in the R number with the minimum damage to lives and livelihoods.
‘This is by no means a return to the full lockdown of March, we’re not issuing a general instruction to stay at home, we will ensure that schools, colleges and universities stay open because nothing is more important than the education, health and wellbeing of our young people.
‘We will ensure that businesses can stay open in a Covid compliant way, however we must take action to suppress the disease.’
Six new restrictions as set out by Boris
- We are asking office workers who can work from home to do so, in key public services and where home working is not possible, such as construction or retail, people should continue to attend their workplace.
- From Thursday all pubs, bars and restaurants must operate a table service only, except for takeaways. Together with all hospitality venues they must close at 10pm. To help the police enforce this rule, that means closing and not just calling for last orders because simplicity is paramount. The same will apply to takeaways, although deliveries can continue.
- We will extend the requirement to wear face coverings to include staff in retail, all users of taxi’s and private hire vehicles, and staff and customers in indoor hospitality except when seated at a table to eat or drink.
- In retail, leisure, and tourism in other sectors, our Covid secure guidelines will become legal obligation. Businesses will be fined and could be closed if they breach the rules.
- Now is the time to tighten up the rule of six. I’m afraid that from Monday a maximum of 15 people will be able to attend wedding ceremonies and receptions. Though up to 30 can still attend a funeral. We will also have to extend the rule of six to all adult indoor team sports.
- Finally, we have to acknowledge that the spread of the virus is now affecting our ability to reopen business conferences, exhibitions and large sporting events. So we will not be able to do this for 1 October.
Johnson added: ‘These rules, these measures, will only work if people comply and there is nothing more frustrating for the vast majority who do comply.’
Kate Palmer, associate director of HR Advisory at Peninsula said: ‘It seems that the government have now reversed this guidance, now once again advising staff to work from home if they can.
'While the Prime Minister stressed that this does not apply to jobs where staff cannot work from home, such as retail, it does mean that employers will now need to consider implementing a new or further period of homeworking for staff that fall into this category.
‘This may be frustrating news for some businesses, especially if they have taken costly steps to make the workplace Covid-secure.
‘However, they should bear in mind that they will, presumably, have found ways to make this work during the initial lockdown months and should, hopefully, be better prepared this time.’
'This virus is a fact of our lives and I must tell the house and the country that our fight against it will continue.'
Prime Minister, Boris Johnson
These rules will be enforced by tighter penalties:
- We’ve already introduced a fine of up to £10,000 for those who fail to self-isolate, and such fines will now be applied to businesses breaking Covid rules.
- The penalty for failing to wear a mask or breaking the rule of six will now double to £200 for a first offence.
- We will provide the police and local authorities with the extra funding they need, greater police presence on our streets and the option to draw military support where required, to free up the police.
The measures announced all apply in England and the devolved administrations are taking similar steps.
The Prime Minister said that after following advice from senior clinicians the guidance continues to be that people do not need to shield except in local lockdown areas and the government will keep this under constant review.
Johnson concluded: ‘If all our actions fail to bring the R below one than we reserve the right to deploy greater fire power with significantly greater restrictions.
‘We will only be able to avoid it if our measures work and our behaviour changes.
‘This virus is a fact of our lives and I must tell the house and the country that our fight against it will continue.’