Speaking before the House of Commons this afternoon, Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed the growing threat of COVID-19 and announced a series of new measures/ restrictions that are to be enforced in the coming days to tackle the rising R number, while keeping the economy as open as possible.
Mr Johnson said the UK was at a “perilous turning point” with the daily average number of people testing positive for COVID-19 almost quadrupling to 3,929 compared to a month prior. The PM warned that if necessary measures were not taken the country could see “tens of thousands of new infections next month”. Thus new restrictions have been deemed vital to fight the rising rate of infection.
The PM announced the following measures/ restrictions today:
- Office workers who “can” work from home should do so. In key public services and professions where working from home is not possible, such as construction and retail, “people should continue to attend their workplaces”.
- From Thursday 24th September – all pubs, bars and restaurants must operate solely on a table service basis (except for takeaways), and all hospitality businesses must close at 10pm.
- The requirement to wear face-coverings is to be extended to include staff in retail, taxis and private hire vehicles and staff and customers in indoor hospitality services – except from when seated at a table to eat or drink.
- In retail, leisure, tourism and other sectors the government’s COVID secure guidelines will become “legal obligations” – businesses may be closed or fined if found in breach of the rules.
- “Tighten up the ‘rule of six'” – From Monday 28th September a max of 15 people will be allowed to attend wedding ceremonies and receptions. Although up to 30 people are still permitted to attend funerals. The ‘rule of six’ is to be extended to all indoor adult team sports.
- Business conferences, exhibitions and large sporting events will NOT be able to reopen from the 1st October 2020
Such rules will also be enforced with tighter penalties:
- Fines of up to £10,000 for those who fail to self isolate – such fines will now be applied to businesses deemed in breach of COVID rules.
- The penalty for not wearing a mask or breaking the ‘rule of six’ will now double to £200 for a first offence.
- There will also be a greater police presence on the streets.
The measures announced by Mr Johnson today apply to England, however the PM stated that the devolved governments will be taking “similar steps”.
Greater restrictions can be expected if such measures are not able to bring the R number below 1.
Unless significant progress is made, today’s restrictions could remain in place for up to 6 months.