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Boris Johnson announces tough new restrictions that could stay in place 'for six months'

Weddings are to be reduced to 15 people and penalties for not wearing face coverings are to be increased.

Johnson in the House of Commons this afternoon.
Johnson in the House of Commons this afternoon.

Updated Sep 22nd 2020, 1:35 PM

UK PRIME MINISTER Boris Johnson has said that the UK “must act” to curb the hastening spread of Covid-19 but has stressed that it is “by no means a return to the full lockdown”.

Johnson made the comments in the House of Commons this afternoon ahead of a national address later this evening.

Johnson has announced a number of strict measures including; a requirement for people working in retail to wear face coverings, a halt on the public returning to sporting matches, a 15 -person limit attending weddings and the closure of bars and restaurants at 10pm.

The rules announced by Johnson apply to England but he said that he has spoken with the first ministers in each of the UK’s devolved governments and that “the devolved administrations are taking similar steps”.

“These rules will be enforced by tighter penalties, ” Johnson added. “The penalty for failing to wear a mask or breaking the rule of six will now double to £200 for a first offence.”

Johnson also said that the measures being announced could remain in place for six months unless the situation improved. 

“Unless we palpably make progress we should assume that the restrictions I have announced will remain in place for perhaps six months,” he said. 

I want to stress that 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 well being of our young people.

Johnson also said that people are again being asked to work from home, despite encouragement from Johnson and other ministers to return to offices over the past couple of months. 

These restrictions, including those related to bars, are set to come into force from 6pm this evening. In Northern Ireland, however, so-called ‘wet pubs’ are not due to open until tomorrow, something Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said could cause confusion.

“I think it is a confusing message that you are moving towards opening up a sector, but the pub sector is the only part of that entire hospitality sector that has not opened,” she said. 

“You have to be reasonable about that, 30,000 jobs are impacted by that sector not being opened.”

She said there was a difference between a regulated setting with good hygiene measures in place and people’s own homes, where they feel more relaxed and are less likely to wash their hands.

“I accept that is a slightly conflicting messages there but we would only be moving forward if the science and health advice say that we can.” 

Second wave

The UK Prime Minister said that the threat of a second wave was “always real” and that Covid-19 infections, the positivity rate and hospital admissions are all up. 

“We always knew that while we might have driven the virus into retreat, the prospect of a second wave was real, and I’m sorry to say that as, in Spain and France, and many other countries we reached a perilous turning point,” he said.

A month ago, on average, around 1000 people across the UK were testing positive for coronavirus every day. The latest figures almost quadrupled to 3929.

“I wish I could reassure the house that the growing number of cases is merely a function of more testing, but a rising proportion of the tests themselves are yielding a positive result,” he added.

I also wish I could say that more of our people now have the antibodies to keep the virus off. But the latest data suggests that fewer than 8% of us are in this position. It’s true that the number of new cases is growing fastest amongst those aged 20 to 29. But the evidence shows that the virus is spreading to other, more vulnerable age groups as we have seen in France and Spain where this has led to increased hospital admissions and sadly more deaths.

Labour leader Keir Starmer said his party supported the Government’s latest guidance, but said while they were “necessary” they were not “inevitable”.

He said: “Just as we supported lockdown in March and the more recent local lockdowns, although with fierce criticism of the way the government is handling this pandemic, when restrictions are needed the national interest lies in clear communications and cross-party support.”

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Starmer said families were worried that “the government doesn’t have a strategy”.

He added: “One day people were encouraged to work in the office, in fact more than encouraged they were openly challenged by the Prime Minister for not doing so, today they’re told the opposite.

“This is a time of national crisis but we need clear leadership.”

- With reporting by Press Association

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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