Boris Johnson is expected to unveil a wave of new coronavirus restrictions today – but the plans have already provoked anger from the hospitality sector and have been called “another crushing blow” for businesses.
One of the measures the Prime Minister is set to announce is 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants from Thursday but the sector has warned of disastrous consequences for the economy.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said: “A hard close time is bad for business and bad for controlling the virus – we need to allow time for people to disperse over a longer period,” she said.
This morning, the Prime Minister will chair a meeting of the Cabinet and hold his first meeting of the Cobra emergency committee in four months, which will be attended by the leaders of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
He will address Parliament this afternoon and then the nation in a live TV broadcast at 8pm.
Other measures look to include a return to working from home, where possible, and a drive to encourage mask-wearing, hand-washing and social distancing.
Follow the latest updates below.
No time span for new restrictions
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove was unable to say how long the new coronavirus measures are expected to last.
“What we hope is we can take appropriate steps now, which mean that if we succeed in beating back the virus, then we will in the future be able to progressively relax them,” he told BBC Breakfast.
“But what I can’t do is predict with absolute certainty.”
Pressed on whether it would be months or weeks, Mr Gove said: “It is the case, as Professor Vallance and Chris Whitty pointed out yesterday, that we’re going to have a challenging next six months.”
“If people can work from home, they should,” he added.
“But I stress that it’s very important that those people whose jobs require them to be in a specific workplace do so.”
He added that it was not a case of “revisiting the days at the beginning of our response to this virus” as “workplaces are safer”, adding: “But one of the risks that we have to face is that social mixing overall contributes to the spread of the virus.
“So as much as we can restrain that as possible at this stage, the better for all of us and for public health.”
Sport, education and hospitality all in danger
Professor Semple was asked if he government just announces a 10pm curfew and nothing more, will it be enough?
“No, it’s not going to be,” he said.
“There are several sectors of society which will need to increase their restrictions, unfortunately. But it is necessary now because we are starting to see a rise in cases.
“We are going to have to see reductions at sporting events, and that’s going to hit many of us hard because we enjoy the football, boxing and other activities, particularly in the North West of England.
“We are likely to see an increase in restrictions on the hospitality sector that go beyond the 10pm curfew and table service. I think that is very likely.
“The provision of higher and further education is likely to move to a more online service, many of which have done so.”
Rule of six ‘does not go far enough’
Professor Calum Semple, from the University of Liverpool is a SAGE advisor.
He has given a grim outlook on BBC Radio 4.
“Is the rule of six enough to stick with for the time being?” he was asked.
“I don’t really think so,” Prof Semple replied.
“And I’m sorry to say it’s going to hurt people the most. I think we will go to a stage where we are restricting people to not mixing between households.
“I think that the rule of six has been tried and has not had time to kick in yet, but based on the numbers I’m seeing, it isn’t going far enough.”
Prof Semple was asked if other scientists thought the same.
“The epidemiologists and scientists that I work with think the time to act is now,” Prof Semple said.
“We are in a serious situation and the numbers are rising and tracking the current worst case scenario, so there is significant anxiety amongst the scientific community.”
Hospitality sector on ‘life support’
Andy Wood, chief executive Adnams brewery has been on Radio 4 and warned that that the early closing of pubs may not actually help the situation.
“I think we’re into marginal gains here with table service and a 10pm curfew. There is a real threat here that people will move on to house parties and cause this spike to continue.
“The sector had done a great job in July and August and we didn’t see a spike by and large. The industry has been heavily compliant with what Government says.
“Of course we recognise that the public health message has to come first.”
I think it seems incongruous that we have to impact one part of the economy to open up other bits of economic activity.
“At Adnams and other companies in the sector we must remember that businesses are still on life support. We’ve had the furlough scheme, business rate relief, bounceback loans, VAT cuts, the Chancellors ‘Eat Out To Help Out’ – which seemed to be very successful. All these measures are trying to keep the industry on life support.
‘We need to act’ says Gove
Michael Gove says the Government is taking “reluctant steps” with the new coronavirus measures, but added that they are “absolutely necessary”.
“There will be more details that the Prime Minister will spell out, and again, one of the points that he’ll make is that no one wants to do these things, no one wants to take these steps,” he told Sky News.
“Because as we were reminded yesterday, and as you’ve been reporting, the rate of infection is increasing, the number of people going to hospital is increasing, and therefore we need to act.”
Michael Gove pushing ‘work from home’ message
The Cabinet Office minister says there will be a “shift in emphasis” on working from home in the new coronavirus restrictions.
Mr Gove says: “If is is possible to work from home we would encourage them to do so.”
When asked if it is still the plan to have 80 per cent of staff back in Whitehall, Mr Gove says: “No”
This was trailed last night, and is being pushed this morning.
Mr Gove tells Sky’s Kay Burley that the announcements today are “reluctant steps but they are absolutely necessary.”
Should we begin to work from home again?
“If it is possible for people to work from home, then we’d encourage them to do so,” says Cabinet Office Minister @michaelgove.
— Kay Burley (@KayBurley) September 22, 2020
Money needed for sport to stave off a ‘lost generation of activity
The leaders of more than 100 sports bodies have reportedly written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson requesting emergency funds to stave off a “lost generation of activity”.
According to a letter reportedly seen by BBC Sport, the group warns the future of the sector is “perilous” and urges the Government to provide a “sports recovery fund” in order to help the industry endure the prolonged effects of the pandemic.
The letter, written by organisations including the Football Association, Premier League, Rugby Football Union and England and Wales Cricket Board, reportedly states: “We require a comprehensive support package for the sport and physical sector to aid its recovery.
“This package must combine investment, tax incentives, and regulatory reform.
“Covid-19 has undermined our commercial revenue streams with both stadiums and leisure facilities closed or greatly reduced in capacity. The impact of this will potentially lead to a lost generation of sport and activity.”
Catching flu and Covid-19 at same time almost doubles risk of death
Catching flu at the same time as Covid-19 nearly doubles the risk of death from the virus, Public Health England (PHE) has said.
A new study of hospital patients who contracted both diseases from January to April this year found a 43 per cent mortality rate compared to 23 per in people who caught coronavirus alone.
Although the high death tolls for both cohorts reflects the vulnerable status of those patients, officials are warning that anyone who gets both flu and coronavirus at once could be in “serious trouble”.
PHE also highlighted the risk of being hospitalised by influenza and then catching Covid-19 from other patients or staff.
Read the full story
Read more: Coronavirus vs flu and colds: How symptoms compare to Covid-19
South Korea suspends free flue shot programme
South Korea suspended free flu shots on Tuesday after reports of problems in storing the vaccinations during transportation, disrupting plans to pre-emptively ease the burden on a healthcare system already strained by coronavirus outbreaks.
The country, which has seen a spike in Covid-19 cases since August, planned to procure 20 per cent more flu vaccines for the winter than the previous year to jab 30 million people. It had planned to start free inoculation on Tuesday for some 19 million eligible people.
The head of South Korea’s disease prevention agency said on Tuesday that some doses of the vaccine, which need to be refrigerated, had been exposed to room temperature while being transported to a medical facility.
It was not immediately known how many doses were affected, and authorities are looking into the entire batch of five million doses that were scheduled for distribution on Tuesday.
Cases in Australia’s hotspot double, elsewhere restrictions to be eased
Australia’s virus hotspot of Victoria on Tuesday reported a more than doubling in new infections likely as a result of increased testing, while states elsewhere in the country said border restrictions would be relaxed as case numbers dwindled.
Officials said the northeastern state of Queensland would open its borders to parts of neighbouring New South Wales amid growing confidence that Australia’s second wave of infections has been contained.
NSW has maintained new daily infections in the single-digits since Sept. 11, reporting only two cases in the past 24 hours, both of which were overseas travellers already in quarantine.
Queensland had no new cases and South Australia has not reported a new case in close to two weeks.
Mexico’s confirmed cases nears 700,000
Mexico closed in on a total of 700,000 confirmed cases on Monday, though authorities acknowledge the true number of infections in the country ranked No. 6 in Covid-19 cases globally is higher.
Mexico has the fourth highest number of deaths attributed to the pandemic.
On Sunday, the health ministry reported 3,542 new confirmed cases, bringing the total to 697,663 as well as a cumulative death toll of 73,493.
Pub curfew scheme ‘from random policy generator’
The Prime Minister is this evening set to tell the British people that there will be a 10pm curfew in pubs from Thursday evening.
Boris Johnson is announcing new measures because the UK’s coronavirus cases are surging.
But the Institute of Economic Affairs think tank said the plans would be “devastating to the hospitality sector”. Christopher Snowdon, the IEA’s head of lifestyle economics, said: “A 10pm closing time for all pubs, bars and other hospitality seems to have emerged from a random policy generator.
“While mandatory table service has been part of the successful Swedish approach and may have merit, the new closing time will be devastating to a hospitality sector that was already suffering after the first lockdown.
“The Government should publish the evidence upon which this decision was based.”
Read more: What time is Boris Johnson’s speech today and what will he say?
Daily tests ‘may not be available on the NHS’
Daily tests for Covid-19 which would allow people to get their lives back to normal would not be available on the NHS, the Government’s head of testing has said.
Dido Harding, who runs the NHS’s much-criticised test and trace system, suggested in comments reported by the i newspaper that companies and individuals could be forced to pay for rapid turnaround coronavirus tests as the “cost of doing business” when they become available.
Baroness Harding said those without symptoms might choose to foot the bill for self-administered tests to act as a kind of Covid-19 passport to allow them to take part in non-socially distanced activities
Earlier this month, it emerged the Government is considering shelling out as much as £100 billion on a programme dubbed “Operation Moonshot” to deliver up to 10 million tests every day.
Read more: Britons ‘may have to pay for their own tests’
‘Johnson must show he has a plan’
Boris Johnson is expected to announce a plan today to get Britain’s surging coronavirus infections under control. But Julia Hartley-Brewer says No 10’s messages have been confusing and alarming:
It’s easy to criticise the Government’s chaotic communications but hiring the best PR agency in the business could not solve this problem. That’s because the real crisis is not in the presentation of their strategy, it’s the total absence of any strategy at all.
The Government’s plan to tackle coronavirus appears to be little more than “we must be seen to do something”. Even if that “something” is not merely useless but is even worse than doing nothing.
Read more: Julia Hartley-Brewer: The public needs more than Project Fear