UK PM launches new Covid restrictions that may last six months
Renewed concern over managing the Covid-19 pandemic was prompted by expert modelling that showed new cases doubling every seven days, which could lead to 50,000 day-cases by the middle of October.Updated: Sep 22, 2020, 19:59 IST
Rattled by a surge of new Covid-19 cases, Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday outlined more restrictions short of a full lockdown that would perhaps last for six months, insisting that his government is “acting on the principle of a stitch in time saves nine.”
Presenting new data in the House of Commons, Johnson said that in the last fortnight, hospital admissions in England had more than doubled, adding that new cases are growing fastest among those aged 20-29.
The cumulative figure of cases in the UK on Tuesday crossed 4 lakhs, with nearly 42,000 deaths based on incidence in hospitals and care homes.
The government, Johnson said, would use the military, if need be, to enforce the new restrictions and fines of up to 10,000 pounds on those breaching self-isolation. It also had the “right to deploy greater firepower” if things did not improve.
“Tens of thousands of daily infections in October would, as night follows day, lead to hundreds of daily deaths in November and those numbers would continue to grow unless we act. And as with all respiratory viruses, Covid is likely to spread faster as autumn becomes winter,” he said.
The curbs include a 10pm curfew for pubs, restaurants and hospitality centres, which has further unnerved the industry struggling to balance the books in recent months. New fines of up to 10,000 pounds and compulsory wearing of masks are among the new steps.
Another key advice was to ‘work from home’, a reversal of the recent ‘back to work’ advice when new cases were in the hundreds. Weddings will also be limited to 15 people, instead of 30, while planned pilot events for the return of spectator sport have been cancelled.
The new advice to last “perhaps six months” also means Johnson has dropped his earlier optimism of a return to normal by Christmas. He went on to caution people against complacency, highlighting the range of new fines to those who breach self-isolation or restrictions.
On Monday evening, the Joint Biosecurity Centre of the British government raised the national Covid-19 alert level from three to four, which means the epidemic is in general circulation and transmission is “high or rising exponentially”.
The alert level was reduced from level four to three on June 19. The centre has five alert levels; the highest refers to a stage of outbreak in which there is a risk of health services being overwhelmed.
Johnson said: “We are also, Mr Speaker, better prepared for a second wave, with the ventilators, the PPE, the dexamethasone, the Nightingale Hospitals, and a hundred times as much testing”.
“So now it falls to each of us and every one of us to remember the basics – wash our hands, cover our faces, observe social distancing – and follow the rules”.