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Prime Minister Boris Johnson addresses MPs ahead of coronavirus work from home, wedding and 10pm curfew announcement as Covid-19 cases rise




Boris Johnson has addressed MPs and told them new coronavirus restrictions will stay in place for six months ahead of his "work from home if you can" announcement to the nation tonight.

The Prime Minister told the House of Commons "a stitch in time saves nine" as he explained why it was necessary to re-impose restrictions.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has addressed MPs Picture: PA Wire
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has addressed MPs Picture: PA Wire

From Thursday hospitality businesses will have to shut at 10pm and staff will have to wear masks, while workers should now only go in to office if they have to, he explained.

Wedding guest lists will be slashed from 30 to 15 from Monday, he announced, but funerals will still be open to 30 mourners.

The rule of six will be extended to team sports and fines for breaching face mask and rule of six rules will double to £200.

But he said those who previously had to shield won't have to again apart from in local lockdown areas and insisted the government was more prepared for a second wave of the virus with "100 times more testing".

Spectators will not return to sporting events as was intended from October but this is not a "return to lockdown," he insisted.

"If we can reduce the transmission rate to 1 we can save lives, protect the NHS and shield the economy," he added while stressing tougher measures will come in if that does not happen.

Michael Gove earlier told Sky News that the advice marks a "shift in emphasis", as he added that plans for 80% of Whitehall to return by the end of month have been scrapped.

The Prime Minister is expected to announce the new advice this evening, as part of a raft of new restrictions to help tackle a rapid rise in Covid-19 cases.

He is also expected to reveal that pubs, bars and restaurants will close by 10pm every night from Thursday, while people will also be banned from ordering at the bar. Hospitality leaders have condemned this anticipated move, describing it as a “crushing blow” for the sector.

On Radio 4 this morning Michael Gove, Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, defended the new measures, which he said aim to "reduce unnecessary social contact".

But host Mishal Husain argued the "rule of six" - a government restriction allowing six people to attend social gatherings, that will remain in place alongside the new measures - could be seen as "contradictory".

She pointed out that under the rule, a group of six people could leave a pub at 10pm and continue socialising together at home, while she questioned whether three couples meeting for dinner at a restaurant would constitute "necessary" social contact.

Michael Gove, pictured in Dover in 2018
Michael Gove, pictured in Dover in 2018

Mr Gove responded:"The rule of six is simple, straightforward and well understood. The changes we're also bringing in today augment that, they're not in contrast with it.

"The Prime Minister is clear: a stitch in time saves nine. No-one's enthusiastic about [these steps], no-one actually wants to restrict people enjoying themselves."

MPs will not have the chance to vote on the new measures before they are put forward later today, but Mr Gove says restrictions will be up for debate in the Commons next week.

"We need to act quickly in order to deal with an emerging challenge," he added. "The House of Commons will have the opportunity to pass a verdict overall next Wednesday."

The new measures come after the Government's chief scientific and medical advisers painted a grim picture of how 200 or more people in the UK could die each day by mid-November if the current rate of infection is not halted.

Hospitality leaders have condemned plans for a 10pm curfew. Stock picture: iStock
Hospitality leaders have condemned plans for a 10pm curfew. Stock picture: iStock

Sir Patrick Vallance, speaking alongside Professor Chris Whitty yesterday, said the “vast majority of the population remain susceptible” to catching coronavirus and the current situation required swift action to bring the case numbers down.

The UK’s four chief medical officers then recommended raising the Covid alert level from three to four – the second highest – indicating the “epidemic is in general circulation; transmission is high or rising exponentially”.

Mr Johnson will chair meetings of Cabinet and the Cobra emergency committee – including the leaders of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – today, before a televised address at 8pm.

A Number 10 spokesperson said: “No-one underestimates the challenges the new measures will pose to many individuals and businesses.

“We know this won’t be easy, but we must take further action to control the resurgence in cases of the virus and protect the NHS.”

But the fresh restrictions sparked anger from the hospitality sector, with Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, describing them as “another crushing blow” for many businesses.

“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.

“Table service has been widely adopted in some parts of the sector since reopening but it is not necessary across all businesses, such as coffee shops.

“It is hard to understand how these measures are the solution to fighting the disease when Government data shows that just 5% of infections out of the home are related to hospitality.”