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Boris Johnson to address Commons as UK braces for 'tough six months'

Johnson will set out steps to tackle a second wave of coronavirus when he appears before MPs today.

Image: PA

UK PRIME MINISTER Boris Johnson is to address the House of Commons today as the country braces for further lockdown restrictions. 

Johnson will set out steps to tackle a second wave of coronavirus when he appears before MPs today following the stark assessment from Patrick Vallance and England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty.

The UK was warned to brace for a tough six months as the virus could spread more easily during the autumn and winter, with Professor Whitty hinting restrictions on social lives were needed to prevent coronavirus spiralling out of control, highlighting a need to “break unnecessary links” between households.

Johnson will chair meetings of Cabinet and the Cobra emergency committee – including the leaders of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – today as he considers what action to take.

The chief medical officers of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland yesterday said in a joint statement that all four nations of the UK should move to Level 4 on the Covid-19 alertness scale.

They said: “The Joint Biosecurity Centre has recommended that the Covid-19 alert level should move from Level 3 (a Covid-19 epidemic is in general circulation) to Level 4 (a Covid-19 epidemic is in general circulation; transmission is high or rising exponentially).

Extra restrictions on social gatherings are also to be imposed across Northern Ireland. 

The new measures, announced in response to a rising number of Covid-19 cases, were confirmed this evening by First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill. 

Under the new rules, there will be no mixing of two households indoors except for single-person household bubbles – where two households amalgamate to support adults living alone or single parents with children. Some other exemptions also apply. 

No more than six people from two households can meet in private gardens.

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Matt Hancock refused to guarantee that pubs in England would be allowed to open this weekend as ministers considered options to limit the spread of the virus.

He said the country was at a “tipping point” and “we’re working right now on what further measures may be necessary”.

The UK’s four chief medical officers recommended raising the Covid alert level from three to four – the second highest – indicating the “epidemic is in general circulation; transmission is high or rising exponentially”.

He said there was “no doubt” the UK was seeing increasing cases of Covid-19 among all age groups.

It emerged last week that senior NHS officials contacted the HSE seeking help with Covid-19 tests.

The UK is facing problems with their Government’s Covid-19 test and trace programme, with people being forced to travel hundreds of miles to get a test.

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HSE CEO Paul Reid said he was contacted by officials from the NHS early last week to help plug a hole in their system.

Meanwhile, Hancock said the Government was “determined” to keep schools open during the next phase of the coronavirus response, adding: “The evidence is that schools aren’t where a lot of transmission happens, it’s more about people socialising.”

Asked by presenter Phillip Schofield on ITV’s This Morning if people would be “locked down in our own homes socially”, Mr Hancock said: “Well there are already parts of the country where, sadly, there are measures in place to say you shouldn’t socialise with people outside your household.”

Other measures which have been introduced in local lockdowns across England have included 10pm curfews for pubs and restaurants.

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