23 Sep 2020

Covid-19: UK imposes 6-month curbs against virus

5:48 am on 23 September 2020

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told people to work from home where possible and ordered bars and restaurants to close early to tackle a fast-spreading second wave of Covid-19 with new restrictions likely lasting six months.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson attends a national service of remembrance at the National Memorial Arboretum on August 15, 2020.

Boris Johnson stopped short of another full lockdown but warned that further measures could come if the disease was not suppressed. Photo: Anthony Devlin / Pool / AFP

After scientific warnings that deaths could soar without urgent action, Johnson stopped short of another full lockdown as he did in March but warned that further measures could come if the disease was not suppressed.

"We reserve the right to deploy greater firepower, with significantly greater restrictions," he told parliament following emergency meetings with ministers and leaders of the United Kingdom's devolved governments.

Just weeks after urging people to start returning to workplaces, Johnson advised office workers to stay at home if they could.

He ordered all pubs, bars, restaurants and other hospitality sites to close at 10pm from Thursday with only table service allowed.

"I am sorry this will hurt many businesses just getting back on their feet," he said.

It was unclear if the measures would be enough to tackle Britain's second wave, which government scientists warned could reach 50,000 new cases per day by mid-October.

Masks will be required in more settings, there will be tougher enforcement of rules and the military could be brought in to help free up the police, Johnson said.

Schools and universities are to stay open.

Businesses breaking Covid laws face penalties of up to £10,000 or even closure while individuals may be fined £200 for not wearing a mask when required.

Johnson said it was frustrating for the law-abiding majority to see a few "brazenly defying the rules".

Asked in parliament why Britain's figures were worse than Germany and Italy, Johnson said: "There is an important difference between our country and many other countries around the world and that is our country is a freedom-loving country ... It is very

difficult to ask the British population uniformly to obey guidelines in the way that is necessary."

The UK already has the biggest official Covid-19 death toll in Europe - 41,788 - while it is borrowing record amounts to pump emergency money through the damaged economy.

- Reuters