- Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday told workers to stay at home if they can as a second coronavirus wave grips the UK.
- He announced new restrictions for the hospitality and leisure industries and said they could last for another six months.
- He also introduced a 10 p.m. curfew for pubs, bars, and restaurants and a limit on wedding guests to 15.
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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday urged people to work from home in order to halt a spike in coronavirus infections and announced a series of new restrictions that could last for at least six more months.
Johnson told the House of Commons that the government had scrapped its push for more people in England to return to their workplaces.
“We are once again asking office workers who can work from home to do so,” Johnson told members of Parliament.
The prime minister said that in England:
- Anyone able to work from home should do so immediately.
- Pubs, restaurants, and leisure and entertainment venues must close at 10 p.m. from Thursday. Takeaway restaurants will also be affected, though food delivery can continue later.
- People working in hospitality and retail must wear masks.
- The “rule of six” will be enforced for indoor sporting events.
- Weddings will be limited to 15 guests only.
- Fines for noncompliance will be increased against both businesses and individuals.
“Unless we palpably make progress,” he said, “we should assume that the restrictions I’ve announced will remain in place for perhaps six months.”
A spokesman for Johnson said the measures were designed to “minimise the impact on the economy” while “ensuring that children are kept in schools and students can continue with their higher education.”
The guidance represents a dramatic shift in government policy.
In July, the UK prime minister said, “I do want people to start to go back to work now if you can.” A month later, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak urged people in London to “do our bit” and return to offices to help the economy.
The Telegraph reported last month on a government drive last month warning Brits to “go back to work or risk losing your job.”
However, Michael Gove, the chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, on Tuesday said the government was now encouraging people to work from home where possible.
“There is going to be a shift in emphasis, and one of the things that we are going to emphasize is that if it is possible for people to work from home, then we’d encourage them to do so,” Gove told Sky News.
“Now, it’s important to stress that 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’s simply impossible, and that’s why we have worked to make sure that you can have COVID-secure workplaces.
“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 if we can limit or appropriately restrain social contact, that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Johnson has been under pressure to tighten social-distancing guidelines as the number of new infections increases. There were 4,368 new COVID-19 cases reported on Monday. His scientific advisers on Monday said the UK could reach 50,000 new cases a day by mid-October without further action.
However, the UK government’s new measures do not go as far as those introduced In Northern Ireland, where First Minister Arlene Foster has announced a ban on different households mixing indoors. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is expected to go further than the Westminster government when she announces new measures later Tuesday.
The Times of London reported that Johnson was tempted to announce harsher measures but took the side of Sunak, who was concerned that locking down the hospitality sector would have dire economic consequences. The report said that scientists on SAGE, the group advising the government, wanted the prime minister to take stronger action.
Scottish First Minister also announced new restrictions on people in Scotland. These will mirror those announced by Johnson but with the addition of a nationwide ban on mixing between households, with some exemptions.