BORIS Johnson has today banned gatherings of more than six people in a fresh coronavirus crackdown that could last six months and see Christmas cancelled.
The PM has ordered a multi-pronged attack on the virus after several days of rising cases spooked ministers that corona could fast become out of control again.
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In his first press conference since July, the PM announced moves to ramp up enforcement of the tough rules to make sure everyone is following them – or they risk being slapped with fines of at least £100.
And medical experts warned that a second spike in coronavirus was being fuelled by young people failing to follow the rules on social distancing and hygiene.
Boris said today he hoped we “could” get things back to normal by Christmas with the Government’s plans to roll out mass testing in the coming weeks and months.
But Government scientists fear the rules are likely to remain for at least three months – and could be in place for six.
It was revealed today:
HIT FOR SIX
From Monday people in England will be unable to gather in groups of more than six – including children – and if they do they could even be arrested.
The laws will apply indoors and outdoors, after police chiefs said that the rules were too confusing for people to follow.
Weddings, funerals, workplaces and some other gatherings will be exempt from the rules.
The PM apologised today for having to take such measures, and said it “breaks my heart” to have to stop families from being able to see each other.
He said: “I wish that we did not have to take this step. But as your Prime Minister, I must do what is necessary to stop the spread of the virus and save lives.”
And he promised he will only keep the strict rules in place “as long as necessary”, but said it was “just too early to say” how long they will be need to stay for.
It means that grandparents and grandchildren may not be able to spend Christmas together if the rules stay in place until then.
Pilots for rapid 20-minute results tests – nicknamed Operation Moonshot will be trialled in Salford in the coming weeks which would “lead to more normal lives without the need for social distancing” and allow people to go to work knowing they were safe.
The Government also now believes that the R rate is now above one as the rate of infections is increasing so rapidly.
They fear that without today’s radical intervention, Britain will follow in the footsteps of France and Spain, where a second wave of coronavirus started among young people but then spread to the elderly.
“This is to avoid a second national lockdown,” Boris declared today.
Mr Whitty today unveiled a series of graphs showing the grave situation facing the UK.
And he warned: “Now we can see this spreading across the whole country.
“This is not just in a very small number of places this is the whole country.”
He was more pessimistic than the PM, telling the nation: “The period between now and spring is going to be difficult. You shouldn’t just see this as a very short term thing.”
Partying youngsters who are flouting social distancing while down the boozer are behind the Covid surge, boffins believe.
But kids who have headed back to school over the past week are not fuelling the spike, Professor Whitty said today.
Alarming numbers show that England’s Covid infection rates have rocketed from 12.5 per 100,000 last week, to 19.7 this week.
But the rate is far higher among Brits in their late teens and 20s.
Among 17 to 18 year-olds it stands at a staggering 48.1 per 100,000.
Among 19 to 21 year-olds it is even higher at 54.5, while among 20 to 29 year-old it is 41.6 per 100,000.
But it is no higher among school age children.
Senior scientists fear soaring numbers of Brits will end up in hospital and could even die from Covid unless infection rates are quickly and drastically slashed.
Boris begged today: “For the sake of yours and your grandparents health, don’t socially gather in groups of more than six now, and when term starts.”
Universities will also be told NOT to send students home in the event of another outbreak, he revealed.
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LIVE SPORT ON HOLD
Boris also confirmed that the Government was putting plans for live sport to return back under review.
Clubs were due to let in a quarter of their stadium’s capacity from October 1 under plans to socially distance fans.
The move delivers a major blow for millions of football fans ahead of the start of the 2020/21 football season, which starts this weekend.
However he stressed “it doesn’t mean we will scrap it entirely”, promising more information soon.
Some of the current sporting events that are carrying out pilots for the return of fans will still go ahead – such as horse racing, cricket and some football games.
Any pilots that do take place will have to have a limit of 1000 people.
Doncaster today cancelled its St Leger races event after the warnings from the PM and public health leaders.
Travellers will be banned from entering the UK unless they’ve filled out track and trace forms under new government plans.
Ministers aim to make the form a “condition of travel” to free up Border Force staff so that they can focus on enforcing those who have to quarantine.
Officials are working with airlines to make sure passengers cannot board a plane if they haven’t filled out the form.
They will also make sure the form matches up to booking data – to make sure people don’t put down fake addresses.
The new system is similar to Greece, which bans tourists from entering unless they have filled out the form 24 hours before travel, and shown the form at the check in desk.
The government will also hire a “Dad’s Army” of recently retired and newly qualified Environmental Health Officers to crack down on those ignoring rules in town and city centres.
An army of Covid Secure Marshalls will patrol the streets to make sure rules are being enforced.
And they will also snoop on pubs and restaurants to ensure they are all taking punter’s details so they can be tracked and traced in the event of an outbreak
Hospitality venues which are found flouting the rules will be fined £1000.