British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK had reached “a perilous turning point” in its fight against a second wave of coronavirus as he set out restrictions to avoid a full national lockdown.
He told MPs on Tuesday that all pubs, bars and restaurants in England will have to close their doors from 10pm, together with weddings being limited to 15 people.
And just weeks after urging people to start returning to workplaces, Mr Johnson advised office workers to stay at home if they could.
After government scientists warned that the death rate would soar without urgent action, Mr Johnson said the restrictions in England could last for six months although he stopped short of imposing another full lockdown.
“I’m sorry to say that as in Spain and France and many other countries, we have reached a perilous turning point,” Mr Johnson told Parliament on Tuesday following emergency meetings with ministers and leaders of the United Kingdom’s devolved governments.
Office workers told to stay at home if they can and weddings to be limited to 15, says Prime Minister Boris Johnson, as he tightens restrictions for England for up to six months https://t.co/nI4WYGRb2z
— BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking) September 22, 2020
Face masks will be required in more settings, businesses who break rules will be fined, and there will be tougher enforcement against people who do not comply, he said.
But schools and universities will stay open.
Government advisers have said the number of new cases could reach 50,000 per day by mid-October.
Mr Johnson warned further restrictions could be brought in should the new measures not achieve a measure of success.
“We will not listen to those who say let the virus rip, nor to those who urge a permanent lockdown,” Mr Johnson said.
“We are taking decisive and appropriate steps to balance saving lives and protecting jobs and livelihoods.”
— UK Prime Minister (@10DowningStreet) September 22, 2020
It comes after senior cabinet minister Michael Gove had earlier said the government’s planned return of fans into UK sports stadiums to allow 25 to 33 per cent capacities from October 1 had been postponed.
A coalition of more than 100 sports bodies, including the tennis, cricket and rugby governing bodies as well as the Premier League, had called on Monday for emergency funding in the light of the expected development.
“The virus is less likely to spread outdoors than indoors, but it’s in the nature of major sporting events that there’s a lot of mingling,” Mr Gove said.
The United Kingdom has the biggest official COVID-19 death toll in Europe.