In a statement to MPs in the House of Commons on Tuesday luncthime, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced new restrictions to tackle the Coronaviurs pandemic in England.
The new restrictions come as COVID-19 cases have been rising in many parts of the country, sparking fears of a ‘second wave’. The restirctions were announced following a COBRA meeting chaired by the Prime Minister and attended by the First Ministers of Scotland and Wales and the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland.
The new restrictions announced on Tuesday apply in England, but similar announcements are expected to be made shortly by the governments in the devoled administrations.
What are the new restrictions?
The Prime Minister announced the following new restrictions, saying that we should “assume” they will remain in place six months;
- All pubs, restaurants and bars in England will have to close by 10pm each evening from Thursday
- Hospitality outlets serving food and drink will be restricted by law to providing table service and takeaway services only
- Anyone who can work from home should now do so
- Weddings will be restricted to 15 people only (down from 30)
- Plans to allow limited crowds to attend sporting events and business conferences have been suspended
- The rule of six has been extended to ‘adult indoor team sports’
- The requirement to wear a face-covering has been extended to staff in retail outlets, people in taxis and everyone using hospitality services when they are not seated at a table to eat/drink.
Mr Johnson stressed that the measures did not represent a return to a lockdown as seen earlier in the year, and that the government was not issuing a blanket “stay at home” message.
Are there any new fines or enforcement measures?
Boris Johnson said that the new rules will be ‘enforced by tighter penalties’.
The fine for not wearing a face-covering where required has now doubled to £200 for a first offence. Those who fail to self-isolate could be fined up to £10,000 and such fines will now be applied to businesses breaking COVID rules, the Prime Minister said.
Mr Johnson added that police and local authorities will be provided with extra funding to help provide a greater police presence on streets. He said that authorities will also have the option to draw on military support where required to free up the police.
What parts of society are unaffected?
Speaking to MPs, Mr Johnson said;
“no British government would wish to stifle our freedoms in the ways that we have found necessary this year.
Yet even now we can draw some comfort from the fact that schools and universities and places of worship are staying open, shops can serve their customers, construction workers can go to building sites, and the vast majority of the UK economy can continue moving forwards.”
The Prime Minister did though say that government “reserve the right to deploy greater firepower, with significantly greater restrictions” if the actions fail to bring the ‘R’ number below 1.
It is understood that the Prime Minister will address the public through a televised broadcast at 8pm on Tuesday evening.