Boris Johnson today raised the prospect of the Army patrolling streets in England to enforce coronavirus rules as he unveiled a wave of new measures designed to stop the spread of the disease.
The Prime Minister said that the police will now have the 'option to draw on military support where required' as he announced fines for breaking the rule of six will be doubled to £200.
Mr Johnson is imposing a 10pm curfew on all restaurants, bars and pubs across the country from Thursday with the hospitality sector also being restricted to table service only.
A requirement to wear face coverings will be extended to include retail workers and customers in indoor hospitality settings, except for when they are seated at a table to eat or drink.
Mr Johnson announced the end of the Government's back to work drive as he said he is now 'asking office workers who can work from home to do so'.
The Government has been actively encouraging workers to ditch working from home and today's U-turn represents a humiliating climbdown for the PM who earlier this month had told his Cabinet that 'people are going back to the office in huge numbers across our country and quite right too'.
The decision to urge workers to work from home is likely to spark dire warnings about the future of struggling town and city centres.
Mr Johnson said the UK is at a 'perilous turning point' as he warned the new restrictions could 'remain in place for perhaps six months'.
The PM also said that if the new plans fail to get the disease under control then he 'reserves the right to deploy greater fire power'.
Plans for a partial return of sports fans to stadiums from October 1 have also been 'paused' while the number of people allowed to attend weddings is being reduced to 15 from Monday.
Despite the PM's new measures there are growing concerns that the Government could soon move to impose stricter restrictions on socialising which go even further than the current rule of six. That could mean a ban on households mixing inside.
Some experts have already warned the curfew does not go far enough after Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said yesterday the UK could hit 50,000 cases a day by mid-October and 200 plus daily deaths by November unless Britain changes course.
Calum Semple, a professor of Child Health and Outbreak Medicine at the University of Liverpool and a member of the Government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said there are 'several sectors of society which will need to increase their restrictions unfortunately'.
The 10pm curfew on the hospitality sector has sparked an immediate industry backlash as the UKHospitality group said it was 'another crushing blow' while Tory MPs warned there must not be another 'major lockdown'.
It was claimed overnight that Mr Johnson had initially backed a total shutdown of the hospitality and leisure sectors before Chancellor Rishi Sunak persuaded him to take a less severe course after warning of economic carnage.
Boris Johnson announced today that pubs and restaurants in England will be subject to a 10pm curfew from Thursday
Michael Gove today confirmed the Government is ditching its back to work drive as he said people who can work from home should now do so
The decision to ditch the back to work drive represents a damaging moment for Mr Johnson who has been actively encouraging workers to go back to their offices. A London Underground train is pictured this morning
Mr Johnson arrived back at Downing Street following the Cabinet meeting and entered Number 10 alongside Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance who yesterday painted a grim picture of what could happen if the UK fails to get coronavirus under control
Thursday: The latest official data presented to ministers showed that coronavirus cases were on the rise in all age groups while hospitalisations were also increasing across the board. The numbers are said to have prompted Michael Gove to call for decisive action to be taken. By the end of the day a 'consensus' had reportedly emerged around a plan for a total shutdown of the hospitality and leisure sectors, with Mr Gove and Health Secretary Matt Hancock said to be the leading advocates. Advisers on the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies also backed the plans on the grounds that it was not possible to predict the impact of a less severe curfew on pubs, bars and restaurants. Mr Johnson was reportedly initially in favour of the total shutdown.
Friday: The prospect of a total shutdown spooked ministers and officials in the Treasury and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy who were afraid of the damage such a move would do to the economy. Chancellor Rishi Sunak is said to have asked to see the Prime Minister and the pair then met on Friday afternoon. Mr Sunak spelled out his fears in person and Mr Johnson was apparently sympathetic to the message from the Chancellor, asking officials to look at other options.
Saturday and Sunday: Mr Johnson held further talks with senior ministers as well as with Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty as the premier tried to hammer out an agreed way forward. Mr Johnson eventually decided to go ahead with a curfew plan instead of a total shutdown as the 'hawks' in the Cabinet appeared to win the battle with the 'doves'.
Monday: The PM's latest lockdown plans were formally decided upon by senior ministers ahead of a formal announcement today.
The unveiling of the Government's latest coronavirus clampdown came as:Sir Keir Starmer used his first Labour conference speech as leader to warn that a second national lockdown would be a 'sign of Government failure, not an act of God' that would take an 'immense toll' on public health and the economy. Sir Keir also claimed the 'incompetence' of the Government is 'is holding Britain back' and that the 'underfunding of the NHS' and the 'abandonment of social care' by the Conservatives had meant the UK was not prepared for the pandemic. Julian Knight, the Tory chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Select Committee, said without a 'route map' for getting spectators back to sports events 'we risk decimation of our sporting and cultural infrastructure'. Shares in some of Britain's biggest pub chains felt the pinch following the announcement of the 10pm curfew as City Pub Group fell 6.6 per cent while Wetherspoons dropped 0.4 per cent. Welsh health minister Vaughan Gething welcomed the UK Government's decision to revert back to working from home as he said it was 'a welcome shift... that matches our position'. Tory peer Andrew Lloyd Webber warned that commercial theatre will not survive unless the Government 'steps up to the plate'. Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey said the increase in coronavirus cases is 'extremely difficult news for all of us and the whole country' as he said the Bank 'will do everying we can do... to support the businesses and people of this country'.
Mr Gove confirmed the shift on working from home this morning, telling Sky News: 'There is going to be a shift in emphasis and one of the things that we are going to emphasise is if it is possible for people to work from home then we would encourage them to do so.
'Now, it is important to stress there are many, many, many roles which can't be performed from home.
'There are people in manufacturing, in construction, in retail and in other roles where we recognise that is simply impossible and that is why we have worked to make sure you can have Covid-secure workplaces and we need to balance, obviously, the need to ensure that people can continue to work and indeed critically continue to go to school and to benefit from education against taking steps to try to reduce the virus which is why we can limit or appropriately restrain social contact, that is what we are trying to do.'
He also said plans for a partial return of sports fans to stadiums from October 1 have been 'paused'.
'It is the case that we've been piloting some open air venues, and we do want to be able in due course to allow people to return to watch football and other sporting events,' he told BBC Breakfast.
'But it is the case that we just need to be cautious at the moment and I think a mass reopening at this stage wouldn't be appropriate.'
He added: 'It was the case that we were looking at a staged programme of more people returning – it wasn't going to be the case that we were going to have stadiums thronged with fans.
'We're looking at how we can, for the moment, pause that programme. But what we do want to do is to make sure that as and when circumstances allow, (we) get more people back.'
Mr Gove was unable to say how long the Government's new coronavirus measures are expected to last.
'What we hope is we can take appropriate steps now, which mean that if we succeed in beating back the virus, then we will in the future be able to progressively relax them,' he told BBC Breakfast.
Boris Johnson's 10pm curfew for all pubs, bars and restaurants will not be enough to curb the spread of the coronavirus, one of the government's scientific advisors warned today.
Professor Calum Semple, from the University of Liverpool and a member of SAGE, said the measures will 'have to go further' to halt Britain's rapidly growing outbreak.
And he said tougher restrictions are likely to be needed for the hospitality sector, which today hit back at the curfew and called it 'another crushing blow'.
Professor Semple said: 'In time, it will probably have to go further than a 10pm curfew and table service only.' He also warned that ministers may have to consider 'restricting inter-mingling between households'.
He said new measures needed could include keeping people away from the office on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, just minutes before Michael Gove confirmed the government is ditching its back to work drive.
And Professor Semple added: 'I think the Rule of Six has been tried, it's not had time to kick in yet, but based on the numbers I'm seeing, it doesn't go far enough.
'The epidemiologists and scientists that I work with, and I'm not just talking about the ones on SAGE, I'd say there's hardly a cigarette paper's thickness between what we feel about this.
'The time to act is now, we are in a serious situation, and the numbers that are rising are tracking the current worst case scenario.
Explaining the situation at his local hospital in Wirral, Liverpool, he warned there were already several cases in intensive care.
'We're seeing a rise in hospital admissions,' he said. 'I can tell you our hospital on the Wirral has several cases in the intensive care unit.
'A study that I run which looks at hospital cases in England, Scotland and Wales is seeing a rapid rise in case admissions and, interestingly, we're actually seeing a rise in people between the age of 20 and 40, particularly women, which we didn't see previously.
'And that suggests that it's community exposure in hospitality settings and care settings, which we didn't see before, probably because people under the age of 50 are less invested in social distancing.'
'But what I can't do is predict with absolute certainty.'
Pressed on whether it would be months or weeks, Mr Gove said: 'It is the case, as Professor Vallance and Chris Whitty pointed out yesterday, that we're going to have a challenging next six months.'
Mr Gove insisted the Government was taking 'reluctant steps' with the new coronavirus measures, but added that they are 'absolutely necessary'.
'There will be more details that the Prime Minister will spell out, and again, one of the points that he'll make is that no one wants to do these things, no one wants to take these steps,' he told Sky News.
'They are reluctant steps that we're taking, but they are absolutely necessary.
'Because as we were reminded yesterday, and as you've been reporting, the rate of infection is increasing, the number of people going to hospital is increasing, and therefore we need to act.'
He insisted there is evidence to support the Government's decision to set the curfew on pubs and restaurants at 10pm.
He told the BBC: 'There is evidence that the longer venues stay open, the greater degree of social mixing that takes place.
'So, placing a restriction like this is something that we've already done in parts of the country where the virus has been spreading particularly fast.'
It was claimed overnight that Mr Gove and Health Secretary Matt Hancock had pushed for a total shutdown of the hospitality sector.
The Times reported a 'consensus' formed around the move last Thursday with members of Sage also on board on the grounds that it would not be possible to predict the impact of a curfew.
The Prime Minister is said to have initially been supportive of the shutdown plan which sparked concern in the Treasury and Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, prompting Mr Sunak to ask for a meeting with Mr Johnson.
That meeting took place on Friday as Mr Sunak warned of the economic damage a total shutdown of the hospitality sector could do, leading to Mr Johnson changing his mind and pushing forward with the less severe curfew plans instead.
The fresh restrictions sparked anger from the hospitality sector, with Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, describing them as 'another crushing blow' for many businesses.
'A hard close time is bad for business and bad for controlling the virus – we need to allow time for people to disperse over a longer period,' she said.
'Table service has been widely adopted in some parts of the sector since reopening but it is not necessary across all businesses, such as coffee shops.
'It is hard to understand how these measures are the solution to fighting the disease when Government data shows that just 5% of infections out of the home are related to hospitality.'
Official Downing Street slides showed that if the current rate of infection continues there could be 50,000 coronavirus cases every day by the middle of October and that could lead to 200 plus deaths a day by the middle of November
A group of scientists and doctors have written to the Prime Minister urging him not to opt for a second lockdown and to stop presenting Covid-19 as a mortal danger.
Thirty-two top academics have called on Boris Johnson and his scientific and medical advisers to avoid a knee-jerk reaction to rising cases and hospitalisations.
They said the debate about coronavirus is 'unhelpful' because it is divided between people who want total lockdowns and people who want no restrictions at all.
Calling for decision-makers to 'step back' and think carefully about what to do next, the researchers said there had not yet been any 'readily observable pattern' between tight social distancing rules and the numbers of people dying of coronavirus.
The open letter was written by Oxford's Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Carl Heneghan, by the University of Buckingham's Professor Karol Sikora, and by Sam Williams, director of the consultancy firm Economic Insight.
Tweeting a copy of the letter today, cancer doctor Professor Sikora pleaded: 'We desperately need a rethink to find a better balance'.
It comes amid fierce criticism from experts of the Government's top scientists after they presented a 'doomsday' scenario of 50,000 daily coronavirus cases within a month - which appeared not to be backed by data from France and Spain.
Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night-Time Industries Association, warned the measures could trigger 'a surge of unregulated events and house parties which are the real hot-beds of infection, attended by frustrated young people denied access to safe and legitimate night-time hospitality venues'.
The measures also sparked a Tory backlash, with senior Conservative MP Sir Bernard Jenkin labelling them a 'terrible blow'.
He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: 'The people running pubs, owning pubs, these people are in terrible strain.
'And the life line of the bounce back loans and the grants has kept these people, just about, their heads above water, and this will be a terrible blow to them.'
He added: 'What would be the worst case is if we have to have another major lockdown. That would be terrible for the economy.
'And, so anything that can avoid that risk, or mitigate that risk, seems to be justified.
He said Parliament must debate and vote on the measures being proposed by the Government after his Tory colleagues yesterday accused Mr Johnson of 'ruling by decree'.
There are already fears that the Government will have to impose more draconian restrictions in the coming weeks and months.
Professor Semple was asked on BBC Radio 4's Today programme if he believed the 10pm curfew for pubs and bars will be enough to stop the spread of infection.
He replied: 'No, it is not going to be. There is several sectors of society which will need to increase their restrictions unfortunately but it is necessary now because we are starting to see rising cases not just in the frail elderly but also in people under the age of 50.'
Asked what else could soon be subject to a clampdown, the Sage adviser said: 'We are going to have to see potentially reductions in the sporting events and that is going to hit many of us hard because we enjoy the football, the boxing, other activities particularly in the north west of England.
'We are likely to see increased restrictions on the hospitality sector I think in time, it probably will have to go further than 10 o'clock curfew and table service only, I think that is very likely.'
Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey today said the rise in Covid-19 cases is 'extremelt difficult news for all of us' but the Bank is prepared to act to protect businesses where it can.
Ministers have been warned that a 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants will be the 'final nail in the coffin' for many businesses still treading water after the first wave of Covid-19.
Exasperated hospitality bosses are fuming that they are bearing the brunt of Boris Johnson's coronavirus crackdown when Government figures show a comparably low spread of the disease in