Coronavirus  

PM warns new Covid restrictions could last 6 months

PM warns new Covid restrictions could last 6 months
 Boris Johnson, prime minister of the UK

The new coronavirus restrictions could last for up to six months as the UK reaches a “perilous turning point” in its fight against the virus, the prime minister has warned.

Speaking to the House of Commons today (September 22), Boris Johnson said the general public “must act now” to curb the number of daily infections to “save lives, protect the NHS and shelter the economy”.

Mr Johnson’s new rules include pubs and restaurants having a curfew at 10pm from this Thursday, while table service will be required at all venues.

He also U-turned on the government’s ‘get back to work’ message and advised all workers to work from home if possible.

Face masks will now be mandatory for staff in the hospitality and retail sectors as well as those travelling in taxis, while fines for not wearing masks or following rules have increased from £100 to £200.

Exemptions to the “rule of six” — such as indoor sports — will be scrapped while other exceptions, such as weddings, have been tightened further. Those getting married are now allowed 15 people to gather, down from 30.

Plans to bring spectators back to sporting events have been put on hold.

Mr Johnson said: “These measures will only work if people comply. If all these actions fail we reserve the right to use greater firepower with significantly greater restrictions.

“I fervently want to avoid taking this step but we will only be able to avoid it if our new measures work and our behaviour changes.”

The prime minister added the government would spare no effort in developing vaccines, treatments and new forms of mass-testing but warned that unless the country “palpably” made progress, the restrictions would remain in place for “perhaps six months”.

The restrictions come after the government’s scientific advisers yesterday warned the country faced “thousands of new coronavirus cases a day” if it did not “change course”.

In a public briefing, Sir Patrick Vallance said the UK could see 50,000 new cases a day by mid-October without further restrictions.

Markets, which had likely already priced in the announcements following ongoing murmurings of tighter restrictions, have remained steady following Mr Johnson’s announcement.

The FTSE 100 is up 0.8 per cent since opening this morning while the FTSE 250, more exposed to the domestic market, is up 0.2 per cent.

imogen.tew@ft.com

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