Reimposing lockdown measures that had been eased this summer, the Prime Minister will give the police powers to break up parties in homes, pubs and outdoors. His move to reduce the limit on social gatherings currently set at 30 will cover all gatherings held anywhere in England. It follows a sharp rise in coronavirus cases this week. Official figures showed a further 2,420 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases yesterday after two days of nearly 3,000. The death toll from the disease rose by 30 today.
People caught flouting the social-distancing law will face fines starting at £100 and doubling for each subsequent offence to a maximum of £3,200.
At a news conference tomorrow, the Prime Minister is expected to say: “We need to act now to stop the virus spreading. So we are simplifying and strengthening the rules on social contact – making them easier to understand and for the police to enforce.
“It is absolutely critical that people now abide by these rules and remember the basics – washing your hands, covering your face, keeping space from others, and getting a test if you have symptoms.”
Ministers agreed the move with Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Advisor Patrick Vallance at a Cabinet meeting.
It came after the Prime Minister held a conference call with senior police last week where officers expressed their desire for rules on social contact to be simplified.
Coming into effect on Monday, the rules will apply across England, to all ages, to gatherings indoors and outdoors, in private homes, public outdoor spaces and all venues including pubs and restaurants.
Lockdown rules: Gatherings like this will now be banned after the infection rise
Some legal exemptions will be possible including where a household support bubble is larger than six or where gatherings are for work or education purposes.
Further exemptions will also apply weddings, funerals and organised team sports.
A massive media blitz is to be launched today to warn of the need to continue observing Government coronavirus guidelines.
Under the slogan “Hands – Space – Face”, the campaign will urge people to continue to wash their hands, cover their face when necessary and socially distance to control infection rates and avoid a second peak.
Adverts will carry on the message on television, radio, in the press and on social media.
At the Cabinet meeting, Mr Johnson told ministers to be “extremely vigilant” about the spread of the virus and warned the public – and younger people in particular – against complacency.
And in a sign of willingness to reintroduce lockdown measures to curb a second wave, the Government last night forced restaurants and pubs in Bolton, Lancashire to offer takeaway services only.
Boris Johnson will make the announcement to media tomorrow
Just because we have come through one peak, it does not mean we cannot see another one coming towards our shores
Health Secretary Matt Hancock pleaded with younger people including students to “stick with it” and not flout social distancing following concerns a surge in infections among the young put older citizens lives at risk.
“This must be a moment of clarity for us all. This is not over.
“Just because we have come through one peak, it does not mean we cannot see another one coming towards our shores,” the Health Secretary told MPs today.
He added: “We have seen a concerning rise in the number of positive cases, particularly among younger people.
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“These figures serve as a salutary reminder that this virus is still very much with us and remains a threat, so it is critical that we maintain our collective commitment to controlling this disease.”
Mr Hancock said evidence from France and Spain showed initial surges in cases among the young spread to the rest of the community.
“We have seen all across the world how a rise in cases, initially among younger people, then spreads, leading to hospitalisations and fatalities,” he told MPs.
“But together we can tackle it, so long as we remember that, in a pandemic, our actions today have consequences tomorrow for the people we love, for our communities, and for our country.
“Each and every citizen has a responsibility to follow social distancing and help to stop a second peak.”
Mr Hancock announced draconian lockdown measures were being reintroduced in Bolton by the Government and local council.
“The rise in cases in Bolton is partly due to socialising by people in their 20s and 30s; we know that from contact tracing,” he said.
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Matt Hancock announced new measures in Bolton today
Hospitality businesses in the town will be restricted to takeaway only and venues will have to close by 10pm.
“We will urgently introduce further measures that put the current guidance—that people cannot socialise outside their household—into law,” he said.
Mr Hancock told MPs: “Crucially, we all have a part to play. Young people do not just spread the virus to each other. They spread the virus to their parents and their grandparents.
“They spread it to those they come into contact with and others who they love.
“I know that social distancing can be hard and that it will be extra tough for students who are starting university, but I ask them please to stick with it and to play their part in getting this virus under control.”
He added: “This virus feeds on complacency, and although time has passed since the peak in the spring, the threat posed by the virus has not gone away.
“Now, with winter on the horizon, we must all redouble our efforts and get this virus on the back foot.”
Ministers were briefed on the infection figures by Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting.
Mr Johnson warned ministers that other countries had seen an increase in infections followed later by a rise in hospitalisations.
It was “vital” to prevent young people from infecting people from older generations who could become seriously ill, the Prime Minister said.
As part of the publicity campaign, a new video is being released to show exactly how coronavirus spreads indoors.
Through a scientifically based reconstruction of everyday scenarios the film shows how the interactions between people, surfaces and the air spreads the virus.
The film also reflects how coronavirus spreads through droplets that come out of our nose and mouth.
Prof Whitty said: “As we approach winter and inevitably spend more time indoors, we need the public to keep following this important advice to control the spread of the virus.
“‘Hands. Face. Space’ emphasises important elements of the guidance we want everybody to remember: wash your hands regularly, use a face covering when social distancing is not possible and try to keep your distance from those not in your household.
Bolton has seen a rise in coronavirus infections
“Following these simple steps could make a significant difference in reducing the transmission of Covid-19 and help protect you and your friends, colleagues and family from the virus.”
Professor Catherine Noakes, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) who specialises in airborne infections, said: “Coronavirus is emitted in tiny droplets when we breathe, talk, laugh or cough.
“Other people can be exposed to these when they are close to someone with the virus or they are in a poorly ventilated room for a long time.
“Wearing a face covering prevents most of these droplets from being released into the air, and can also reduce the number of droplets that you are exposed to.
“That is why wearing a face covering serves as a vital first line of defence against catching and spreading the virus, along with regular and thorough handwashing with soap and water and maintaining a safe distance wherever possible.”