Boris Johnson warned Britons tonight they faced a long hard winter of police-enforced curbs on their freedom to see off coronavirus, saying the alternative was 'many more families losing loved ones before their time'.
In a televised address to the nation the Prime Minister, flanked by a Union Jack, said he was 'deeply, spiritually reluctant' to make new 'impositions, or infringe anyone’s freedom' after unveiling new measures in Parliament today.
But he said it was necessary to reintroduce working from home rules and a swathe of social measures in order to avoid a dramatic surge in deaths, overwhelming the NHS and spark a second, economically devastating total lockdown.
The beleaguered premier faced fire from all sides as he U-turned on his push to reopen workplaces after just a few weeks.
He also faced barbs for introducing other swingeing new measures including a 10pm pub curfew and £200 fines for mask rule-breakers in England in the face of a surge of new coronavirus infections sweeping the country.
But speaking from Downing Street tonight he warned that 'iron laws of geometrical progression are shouting at us from the graphs that we risk many more deaths, many more families losing loved ones before their time'.
And he hit out at his critics - including Tory MPs and business leaders who warned of the economic impact of what he is doing, adding: 'To those who say we don’t need this stuff, and we should leave people to take their own risks, I say these risks are not our own.
'The tragic reality of having Covid is that your mild cough can be someone else’s death knell.
'And as for the suggestion that we should simply lock up the elderly and the vulnerable – with all the suffering that would entail – I must tell you that this is just not realistic.
'Because if you let the virus rip through the rest of the population it would inevitably find its way through to the elderly as well, and in much greater numbers.'
The PM has already warned that the new curbs could last well into 2021, and tonight he warned it could take until then to get mass testing up and running fully and a new vaccine widely available.
He said: 'Though our doctors and our medical advisers are rightly worried about the data now, and the risks over winter, they are unanimous that things will be far better by the spring, when we have not only the hope of a vaccine, but one day soon – and I must stress that we are not there yet - of mass testing so efficient that people will be able to be tested in minutes so they can do more of the things they love.
'That’s the hope; that’s the dream. It’s hard, but it’s attainable, and we are working as hard as we can to get there.'
He continued: ‘Never in our history has our collective destiny and our collective health depended so completely on our individual behaviour.
In a televised address to the nation the Prime Minister said he was 'deeply, spiritually reluctant' to make the changes he unveiled in Parliament today
The PM said it was necessary to reintroduce working from home rules and a swathe of social impacts in order to avoid a dramatic surge in deaths and a second, economically devastating total lockdown
Public Health England data reveals that of the 729 outbreaks in the week to September 13, only five per cent occurred in food outlets such as restaurants and pubs
Police blasted Boris Johnson's new coronavirus rules as 'absurd' and 'a nonsense' tonight as small business owners warned they will go bust if workers stay home again.
The beleaguered Prime Minister faced fire from all sides as he U-turned on his push to reopen workplaces after just a few weeks to tell office staff to work from home if they can.
He also faced barbs for introducing new measures including a 10pm pub curfew and £200 fines for mask rule-breakers among new restrictions on social settings in England.
Mr Johnson warned the curbs may have to be left in place for six months, potentially ruining Christmas and New Year's Eve, and taking the total time spent under coronavirus restrictions of some kind up to a calendar year.
Chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation Ken Marsh slammed the move as 'a nonsense'.
He told MailOnline: 'If someone snitches and says Mr Big has got 20 people in his house, then what are we going to do? Sit outside his house all evening and wait for people to come out and count them or something?
'That's one address. We're talking about millions of addresses. It's just a nonsense. It's absolutely absurd.
National chairmanr of the Police Federation of England and Wales John Apter added: 'More funding for policing this pandemic is much needed. The service needs all the help it can get, as financial pressures on Forces are increasing day-by-day - but today's announcement lacked any detail. We will wait for that before we celebrate too much.'
'If we follow these simple rules together, we will get through this winter together. There are unquestionably difficult months to come. And the fight against Covid is by no means over.
'I have no doubt, however, that there are great days ahead. But now is the time for us all to summon the discipline, and the resolve, and the spirit of togetherness that will carry us through.’
Mr Johnson had warned the Commons this afternoon that that the curbs may have to be left in place for six months, potentially ruining families Christmases and New Year celebrations, and taking the total time spent under coronavirus restrictions of some kind up to a calendar year.
The 10pm curfew on the hospitality sector sparked an immediate industry backlash as the UKHospitality group said it was 'another crushing blow'
Chief executive Kate Nicholls said: 'It is hard to understand how these measures are the solution to fighting the disease when Government data shows that just five per cent of infections out of the home are related to hospitality.'
At the same time Tory MPs warned there must not be another 'major lockdown'. They said the decision to ditch the back to work drive will cause widespread 'dismay' among workers who live in 'cramped, overcrowded accommodation'.
They also warned their constituents would be furious at the new crackdown after they followed the Government's rules only to have seen 'people at protests, at street parties, not having action taken against them'.
Meanwhile Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned Mr Johnson that his actions did not go far enough as she banned her countrymen from visiting each other in their own homes in a bid to slash to Covid-19 R rate in Scotland.
Mr Johnson outlined to the public the measures unveiled to MPs this afternoon.
'And of course I am deeply, spiritually reluctant to make any of these impositions, or infringe anyone’s freedom, but unless we take action the risk is that we will have to go for tougher measures later, when the deaths have already mounted and we have a huge caseload of infection such as we had in the spring,' he added.
Britain today recorded another 4,926 cases of coronavirus, taking the country's total above 400,000 confirmed infections as the outbreak continues to spiral.
Department of Health figures show 4,189 new Covid-19 infections are now being recorded each day, on average — up 35 per cent from the figure of 3,096 last Tuesday.
But it is impossible to compare cases recorded now to levels seen during the first wave because the government's lacklustre swabbing policy at the time meant the true scale of the crisis was a mystery. Top experts believe more than 100,000 cases were truly occurring each day during March and April.
Another 37 people have died across the UK, officials announced today, which is more than on any other day for two months. The 44 announced on July 14 was the last highest figure. Government statistics show an average 23 Britons are now succumbing to the illness daily, up from 11 last Tuesday.
Hospital admissions — another measure of how severe an outbreak is — have also risen again. Figures show 237 newly-infected patients required NHS care in England on Sunday, up from 153 the week before. The rolling seven-day average figure has jumped by about 56 per cent over the same time frame.
Separate Office for National Statistics (ONS) data published today showed the weekly number of people dying of Covid-19 rose for the first time since April. Some 99 people in England and Wales were killed by the coronavirus in the week ending September 11, up from 78 a week earlier.
Although still the second lowest number of registered deaths since March and just one per cent of the total deaths from all causes in that the week, the 27 per cent rise shows a reversal of the downward trend that lasted for 20 weeks. Deaths had fallen every week since April 17, three weeks after the lockdown was imposed.
'If we let this virus get out of control now, it would mean that our NHS had no space – once again – to deal with cancer patients and millions of other non-covid medical needs.
'And if we were forced into a new national lockdown, that would threaten not just jobs and livelihoods but the loving human contact on which we all depend.
'It would mean renewed loneliness and confinement for the elderly and vulnerable, and ultimately it would threaten once again the education of our children. We must do all we can to avoid going down that road again.
'But if people don’t follow the rules we have set out, then we must reserve the right to go further. We must take action now because a stitch in time saves nine; and this way we can keep people in work, we can keep our shops and our schools open, and we can keep our country moving forward while we work together to suppress the virus.'
Mr Johnson imposed a 10pm curfew on all restaurants, bars and pubs across England 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.
He also 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 sparked dire warnings about the future of struggling town and city centres as business groups immediately demanded the Government extend its furlough scheme which is due to close at the end of October.
Mel Stride, the Tory chairman of the Commons Treasury Committee, told the PM that lockdowns 'destroy jobs and also personal wellbeing' as he urged the Government to pay attention to the concerns of businesses.
Mr Johnson did not announce a ban on households mixing indoors in England but Nicola Sturgeon this afternoon followed Northern Ireland as she said that from tomorrow Scots will not be able to meet in other people's homes, prompting questions over which of the home nations has adopted the correct approach.
Some experts have already warned the PM's 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'.
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.
The unveiling of the new restrictions immediately prompted business concerns amid fears they will inevitably lead to more job losses.
CBI director general Dame Carolyn Fairbairn told the BBC: 'It is now desperately urgent to have a successor scheme to the furlough scheme.
'It has been a huge success. It has saved thousands and thousands of jobs but there is a cliff-edge looming. And, now, with today's announcement that is more urgent than ever.
'We are calling for the Treasury to announce a successor scheme very quickly. It should be more targeted. It doesn't need to be quite as generous. But, if we are going to protect jobs… in the medium-term it needs to be brought in within days or weeks. This is now desperately urgent.'
Ms Fairbairn also said 'there can be no avoiding the crushing blow' the new proposals on working from home will bring for firms, particularly those in city centres.
The struggle against Covid is the single biggest crisis the world has faced in my lifetime.
In less than a year this disease has killed almost a million people, and caused havoc to economies everywhere.
Here in the UK we mourn every person we have lost, and we grieve with their families.
And yet I am more certain than ever that this is a struggle that humanity will win, and we in this country will win – and to achieve what we must I want to talk to you directly tonight about the choices that we face – none of them easy – and why we must take action now.
I know that we can succeed because we have succeeded before.
When the sickness took hold in this country in March, we pulled together in a spirit of national sacrifice and community. We followed the guidance to the letter. We stayed at home, protected the NHS, and saved thousands of lives.
And for months with those disciplines of social distancing we have kept that virus at bay.
But we have to acknowledge this this is a great and freedom-loving country; and while the vast majority have complied with the rules there have been too many breaches – too many opportunities for our invisible enemy to slip through undetected.
The virus has started to spread again in an exponential way. Infections are up, hospital admissions are climbing.
We can see what is happening in France and Spain, and we know, alas, that this virus is no less fatal than it was in the spring, and that the vast majority of our people are no less susceptible, and the iron laws of geometrical progression are shouting at us from the graphs that we risk many more deaths, many more families losing loved ones before their time; and I know that faced with that risk the British people will want their government to continue to fight to protect them, you, and that is what we are doing, night and day. And yet the single greatest weapon we bring to this fight is the common sense of the people themselves – the joint resolve of this country to work together to suppress covid now.
So today I set out a package of tougher measures in England – early closing for pubs, bars; table service only; closing businesses that are not Covid secure; expanding the use of face coverings, and new fines for those that fail to comply; and once again asking office workers to work from home if they can while enforcing the rule of six indoors and outdoors – a tougher package of national measures combined with the potential for tougher local restrictions for areas already in lockdown.
I know that this approach – robust but proportionate – already carries the support of all the main parties in parliament.
After discussion with colleagues in the Devolved Administrations, I believe this broad approach is shared across the whole UK. And to those who say we don’t need this stuff, and we should leave people to take their own risks, I say these risks are not our own.
The tragic reality of having Covid is that your mild cough can be someone else’s death knell.
And as for the suggestion that we should simply lock up the elderly and the vulnerable – with all the suffering that would entail – I must tell you that this is just not realistic, because if you let the virus rip through the rest of the population it would inevitably find its way through to the elderly as well, and in much greater numbers.
That’s why we need to suppress the virus now, and as for that minority who may continue to flout the rules, we will enforce those rules with tougher penalties and fines of up to £10,000. We will put more police out on the streets and use the army to back-fill if necessary.
And of course I am deeply, spiritually reluctant to make any of these impositions, or infringe anyone’s freedom, but unless we take action the risk is that we will have to go for tougher measures later, when the deaths have already mounted and we have a huge caseload of infection such as we had in the spring.
If we let this virus get out of control now, it would mean that our NHS had no space – once again – to deal with cancer patients and millions of other non-Covid medical needs.
And if we were forced into a new national lockdown, that would threaten not just jobs and livelihoods but the loving human contact on which we all depend.
It would mean renewed loneliness and confinement for the elderly and vulnerable, and ultimately it would threaten once again the education of our children. We must do all we can to avoid going down that road again.
But if people don’t follow the rules we