LONDON: Prime Minister Mr. Boris Johnson has announced that he is making the Army available to the police in order to boost enforcement of coronavirus rules as he unveiled a wave of new measures intended to stop the spread of the disease.
The fine for violating new COVID-19 restrictions has also doubled.
The Prime Minister said the police will now have the ‘option to draw on military support where required’ to free up officers so more can go out.
He said that Army will be allowed to crackdown on rule-breakers as he revealed fines are being doubled to £200.
Mr Johnson said the UK is at a ‘perilous turning point’ in the fight against the virus as he imposed 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 said that ‘unless we palpably make progress’ in the coming weeks then the measures announced this lunchtime ‘will remain in place for perhaps six months.’
He also announced that the Government’s back to work drive will end as he said he is now ‘asking office workers who can work from home to do so’.
The decision to urge workers to work from home is likely to spark dreadful warnings about the future of struggling town and city centers.
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.
Exemptions to the rule of six are also being reduced; banning indoor team sport such as five-a-side football matches.
Despite the PM’s new measures there are growing concerns that the Government could soon move to impose stricter restrictions on socializing which go even further than the current rule of six.
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 UK Hospitality 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.
Setting out his proposals to MPs in the House of Commons this lunchtime, Mr Johnson said the UK is at a ‘perilous turning point’ amid a surge in infections across the country.
He said: ‘This is the moment when we must act.
‘If we can curb the number of daily infections and reduce the reproduction rate to one then we can save lives, protect the NHS and the most vulnerable and shelter the economy from the far sterner and more costly measures that would inevitably become necessary later on.’ Mr Johnson said workers who can work from home should now do so.
He told the Commons: ‘We must take action to suppress the disease. First we are once again asking office workers who can work from home to do so.
‘In key public services and in all professions where home working is not possible such a construction or retail people should continue to attend their workplaces.’
He also set out an extension of the current rules on the wearing of face masks, telling MPs: ‘We will extend the requirement to wear face coverings to include staff in retail, all users of taxis and private hire vehicles and staff and customers in indoor hospitality expect when seated at a table to eat or drink.’
He added, that these rules, these measures will only work if people comply and there is nothing more frustrating for the vast majority who do comply, the law abiding majority, than the sight of a few brazenly defying the rules. These rules will be harshly enforced and those who would violate new rules will have to face the fine of up to £10,000. This fine is applicable on individual and also businesses.
‘The penalty for failing to wear a mask or breaking the rule of six will now double to £200 for a first offence. The police and local authorities will be provided with the extra funding for greater presence on the streets. The government has also kept the option of military support for police where needed.
The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman later clarified that military personnel could be used to fill police office roles and to guard protected sites in order to free up officers so they can go out and enforce the coronavirus rules. Mr Johnson also said that if the latest wave of measures fails to bring the disease under control then the Government will not hesitate to impose even tougher restrictions.
He said that all our actions fail to bring the R below one then we reserved the right to deploy greater fire power with significantly greater restrictions. He added: ‘We will not listen to those who say let the virus rip, nor to those who urge a permanent lockdown. We are taking decisive and appropriate steps to balance saving lives with protecting jobs and livelihoods.’
‘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’. Now the governments have been piloting some open air venues, in due course to allow people to return to watch football and other sporting events,’ he said. A mass reopening at this stage wouldn’t be appropriate, he added.