Special Brief: New measures to tackle coronavirus
- At every stage of this pandemic we have struck a delicate balance between saving lives by protecting our NHS and minimising the wider impact of our restrictions.
- It is because of the common sense and fortitude of the British people that earlier this year we were able to avert an even worse catastrophe. But we always knew that while we might have driven the virus into retreat, the prospect of a second wave was real. As in Spain and France and many other countries, we have reached a perilous turning point.
- Yesterday the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Adviser warned that the doubling rate for new cases could be between seven and 20 days and in the last fortnight, daily hospital admissions in England have more than doubled. The UK’s Covid alert level was raised from 3 to 4 yesterday meaning that transmission is high or rising exponentially.
- So, this is the moment when we must act. If we can curb the number of daily infections, and reduce the R number to 1, then we can save lives, protect the NHS, and the most vulnerable, and shelter the economy from the far sterner and more costly measures that would inevitably become necessary later.
- So now it falls to each and every one of us to remember the basics – wash our hands, cover our faces, observe social distancing – and follow the rules.
- Then we can fight back against this virus, shelter our economy from even greater damage, protect the most vulnerable in care homes and hospitals, safeguard our NHS and save many more lives.
We will introduce new restrictions in England, to suppress the disease, and minimise damage to lives and livelihoods:
- We are once again asking office workers who can work from home to do so. In key public services – and in all professions where homeworking is not possible, such as construction or retail – people should continue to attend their workplaces. The Government, Parliament as well as national and local government will be able to continue to take forward its business in a Covid-secure way and contribute to our national effort.
- From Thursday all pubs, bars and restaurants must operate table-service only, except for take-aways and together with all hospitality venues, they must close at 10pm. To help the police to enforce this rule, this means closing, not calling for last orders. The same will apply to takeaways - though deliveries can continue thereafter. We must act to stop the virus from being transmitted in bars and restaurants.
- We will extend the requirement to wear face coverings. This will include staff in retail, all users of taxis and private hire vehicles and staff and customers in indoor hospitality, except when seated at a table to eat or drink.
- In retail, leisure, tourism and other sectors, our Covid-secure guidelines will become legal obligations. Businesses will be fined and could be closed if they breach these rules.
- We will tighten up the rule of six. From Monday, a maximum of 15 people will be able to attend wedding ceremonies and receptions. However, up to 30 can still attend a funeral as now. We will also have to extend the rule of six to all adult indoor team sports.
- 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 from 1 October. We recognise the implications for our sports clubs, the life and soul of our communities, and the Chancellor and Culture Secretary are working urgently on how we can support them.
- This is not a return to the full lockdown in March. We are 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. We will ensure that businesses can stay open in a Covid-compliant way.
These rules measures will only work if people comply so we will tighten the enforcement with higher penalties:
- We have 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, a greater police presence on our streets, and the option to draw on military support where required, such as to undertake office roles and guarding protected sites, to free up the police.
The Prime Minister also responded to some frequently asked questions:
- Devolved Administrations. These measures apply in England and the Devolved Administrations are taking similar steps. Yesterday, the Prime Minister spoke with each of the First Ministers and again today.
- Local lockdowns. The health of everyone in these islands depends on our common success. Already about 13 million people across England are living under various local restrictions, over and above national measures. We will continue to act against local flare-ups, working alongside councils and strengthening measures where necessary.
- Shielding. For who were shielding early in the pandemic and may be anxious about being at greater risk. Following advice from our senior clinicians, our guidance continues to be that you do not need to shield – except in local lockdown areas – and we will keep this under constant review.
- Further steps. If all our actions fail to bring R below 1, then we reserve the right to deploy greater firepower, with significantly greater restrictions. We want to avoid taking this step, as do the Devolved Administrations, but we will only be able to avoid it if our new measures work and our behaviour changes.
- Vaccines and treatments. We will spare no effort in developing vaccines, treatments and new forms of mass-testing but unless we palpably make progress, we should assume the restrictions announced today will remain in place for perhaps six months.
- Other strategies. This virus is a fact of our lives and our fight against it will continue. We will not listen to those who say let the virus rip nor to those who urge a permanent lockdown we are taking decisive and appropriate steps to balance saving lives with protecting jobs and livelihoods.
- Giving Parliament more opportunity. Parliament will have every opportunity to scrutinise our decisions, MPs will be able to question the Government’s scientific experts more regularly, MPs will gain access to data about their constituencies, and MPs will be able to join daily calls with the Paymaster General.