The UK is grappling with a second wave of coronavirus infections and Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said action is needed now to prevent further, more costly actions later.
He told Parliament the UK was at a ‘perilous turning point’ and had to act now.
“I want to stress that this is by no means a return to the full March lockdown,” he said, but added, “This is the time we need to act… We are acting. on the principle that a point in time saves nine. “
Johnson said the measures, which could be in place for up to six months, would be bolstered by tougher penalties for infractions, a stronger police presence and military support.
“If all of our actions fail to bring the R (reproduction rate) below one, then we reserve the right to deploy more firepower with significantly greater restrictions,” he added. .
“Your harmless cough may be someone else’s death knell. “
So you can mix with 6 people in a workplace office, but not in a house.
You can drink in a pub until 10 p.m., but not after.
I hope COVID will take notice.
– Emma Kennedy (@EmmaKennedy) September 22, 2020
Government scientists have painted a grim picture of 50,000 cases of coronavirus a day in mid-October and more than 200 deaths a day a month later if no action is taken.
Johnson, battling sustained criticism for his handling of the outbreak, has dismissed the renewed anger from the hospitality industry, which is still trying to get back on its feet.
Pubs, bars and restaurants will have to close early at 10:00 p.m. local time (9:00 p.m. GMT) from Thursday, while face masks will be made mandatory for retail staff, as well as in taxis.
As of Monday, weddings and receptions will only be allowed for a maximum of 15 people, although funerals can still accommodate up to 30 people.
But Johnson’s call for people to work from home again whenever possible comes just months after the government urged otherwise.
He also called for an end to the planned phased return of fans to live sporting events in the UK from October 1, despite huge losses and fears some clubs could go bankrupt.
In the latest sign of the fallout from the coronavirus shutdown, UK leisure group Whitbread has announced it could cut up to 6,000 jobs at its hotel and restaurant chains.
Pub chain Wetherspoons also said 1,000 staff at UK airports had been warned that up to 450 jobs were at risk.
Nearly 42,000 people who tested positive for COVID-19 have died in the UK – the worst toll in Europe.
Another 4,368 positive cases were recorded on Monday at levels not seen since early May, when the country was still under a nationwide stay-at-home order.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlines new rules to curb the spread of COVID-19 – rules likely to stay in place for six months. pic.twitter.com/2XdePyIida
– Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) September 22, 2020
While ministers warned of a “tipping point”, the alert level for COVID-19 was raised from level three to four, indicating that transmission rates were now “high or increasing exponentially”.
Johnson said around 13 million people were already under local restrictions in parts of northern and central England which have recorded a high number of cases.
Concerns have been raised that premature closure of pubs could lead to unregulated events and house parties where the virus could easily spread, especially among young people.