The Bahamas is shutting down its borders to visitors from the United States after witnessing a spike in Covid-19 cases.
In a national address, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced that he would be closing all airports and seaports to tourists after the number of new coronavirus cases in the country increased by 15 on Sunday.
Dr Minnis said that new restrictions would stop all outgoing flights to the U.S. as of Wednesday but visitors from the United Kingdom, Canada or the European Union would still be permitted into the country.
The move comes less than three weeks after the Caribbean country reopened its borders to international visitors amid the coronavirus pandemic on July 1.
The Bahamas will be shutting down all airports and seaports to U.S. tourists after witnessing a spike in the number of Covid-19 cases. Pictured: Passengers leave the Carnival Sunshine cruise ship in Bahamas in March amid the coronavirus pandemic
Bahamian Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis (pictured) has announced that he will be shutting down all borders after the number of new coronavirus cases in the country increased by 15 on Sunday
In his speech Dr Minnis said: ‘So today, I am announcing a number of measures we are reinstating to address the number of new cases we are seeing here at home. My government has consulted heavily with health officials.
‘We are taking these strong actions to save lives. I understand the frustration and the disappointment of many Bahamians and residents that may ensue as we reimplement certain restrictions, but as a country, we have to do what is right and what is necessary.
‘If we do not take these measures now we will pay a higher price and deadlier price at a later date. At the onset, of the Covid-19 pandemic, we acted early to prevent widespread sickness and death. We must do so once again.’
He added: ‘Regrettably, the situation here at home has already deteriorated since we began the reopening of our domestic economy. It has deteriorated at an exponential rate since we reopened our international borders.’
Under the new restrictions, commercial flights carrying passengers from the U.S will not be permitted to enter the Bahamas from Wednesday midnight.
In his speech Dr Minnis said that while he understood the frustration he was taking these strong actions to save lives
Visitors from Canada, the United Kingdom and the European Union will still be permitted to visit as long as they can show proof of a negative RT-PCR Covid-19 test result from an accredited lab.
The test must be taken no later than ten days before the date of travel.
Returning Bahamians will also be required to show the negative test upon arrival into the country and those who cannot will be asked to self-quarantine for 14 days.
Meanwhile those seeking to travel domestically will be required to complete an electronic Health Visa before they depart.
On Sunday, the island nation recorded 15 new cases of coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 153.
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Boris Johnson tells staff who can ‘work effectively from home’ NOT to return to offices
Business leaders last night warned of the ‘crushing blow’ to city centres as the Government told office workers to work from home throughout winter.
In an extraordinary U-turn, Boris Johnson yesterday scrapped plans to get more employees back in to their workplace to help revive the economy and instead told them that they should work from home if they could.
The move left firms scrambling to reverse plans to return thousands of staff to their offices.
Within hours of yesterday’s announcement, Barclays said that 1,000 workers who had gone back in recent weeks would now revert to working from home.
Boris Johnson yesterday scrapped plans to get more employees back in to their workplace to help revive the economy and instead told them that they should work from home if they could
Within hours of yesterday’s announcement, Barclays said that 1,000 workers who had gone back in recent weeks would now revert to working from home
Mr Johnson had been encouraging workers to return to their desks since August, ramping up the pressure on businesses to bring back employees after schools returned at the beginning of this month.
But yesterday in the Commons he said: ‘We are once again asking office workers who can work from home to do so.’
Should I stay or should I go? What is the law on working from home?
Office workers and bosses could be locked in talks about working from home – amid fears some staff could refuse to go in or stay home.
Alicia Collinson, solicitor at Leeds employment specialists Thrive Law, said that changes employer responsibilities.
She told MailOnline: ‘What we saw last time was specifically the Government saying work at home when you can, here the Government are saying work from home where possible. The word possible adds some discretion for the employer.
‘We advise employees to speak to employers. Where we talk about what’s possible, the employee could disagree, but if an employer can justify why it’s impossible and asks their employees to still go in, to not do so could be failure to follow reasonable management instructions.
‘At the moment it’s not like last time when people weren’t able to leave their homes. The approach at the moment emphasises that the economy needs to keep going and with furlough stopping, it’s about people keeping their jobs.
‘If someone said they weren’t going in because Boris Johnson said it was better to work from home, the employer would have to explain why this wasn’t possible. If they can prove it’s not possible, the employee should still go in.
‘I think there will be a lot of conversations like this tonight and tomorrow. The use of the word ‘possible’ means that the employer seems to have more decision making power than before.’
Downing Street later said those who could ‘work effectively from home should do so over the winter’.
The Prime Minister stressed this was not a ‘general instruction to stay at home’.
He told MPs: ‘In key public services – and in all professions where homeworking is not possible, such as construction or retail – people should continue to attend their workplaces.’
But industry figures last night accused Mr Johnson of ‘derailing’ the economic recovery.
Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of business campaign group London First, said: ‘While public health must be the priority, discouraging people from returning to Covid-secure workplaces risks derailing an already fragile recovery.
‘The new restrictions must be regularly reviewed to minimise the damage to the economy while safeguarding the health of the nation – not just physical health, but mental health and economic health.’
Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI director general, said the decision was ‘a backward move that won’t be welcomed’.
Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live, she warned there ‘can be no avoiding the crushing blow new measures bring for thousands of firms, particularly in city centres’.
She added: ‘Renewed advice to work from home where possible will keep our town and city centres under great economic pressure, just as people were starting to make their way back.’
In the Commons, former cabinet minister Stephen Crabb said there would be ‘dismay amongst those people for whom the return to Covid-secure workplaces has been so important for mental, physical, social wellbeing’.
He told MPs: ‘While working from home has been great for many – for senior managers living in larger properties with nice gardens – that hasn’t been the experience for a great many others living in cramped, overcrowded accommodation.’
Tory MP Richard Drax added: ‘What we are doing is causing undue harm to our economy. Towns and city centres are dead – no one’s there, all the shops have gone, jobs have gone.’
Parliament is expected to carry on sitting in the way it has done since new coronavirus procedures were introduced.
‘There isn’t any change in regard to the advice for MPs, I think we would treat that grouping as one which is providing an essential service,’ the Prime Minister’s spokesman said.
The move left firms scrambling to reverse plans to return thousands of staff to their offices (pictured, Waterloo station earlier this month)
But efforts to get 80 per cent of civil servants back in Whitehall, announced less than three weeks ago, have been abandoned.
Permanent secretaries will agree with their ministers who needs to be in the office to maintain ‘full delivery of public services’.
Those who are working in essential services will be told to continue going in to their Covid-secure offices – for example those administering passport and driving licence applications.
The PM’s spokesman said the new advice was part of a package to ‘help to reduce contact, break transmission between different households and limit outbreaks’.
Just as the sun was rising on business, we’re back in darkness, says RUTH SUNDERLAND
Driving into work at 7.30 on Monday morning along the M4, I was delighted to find myself stuck in a traffic jam. After the preternaturally quiet motorways and half-empty rail carriages of recent months, gridlock felt like welcome normality.
Nobody loves commuting, but for a brief moment it seemed the rush hour and the bustling, noisy, vibrant, creative commercial life that goes with it might just have begun to return.
Fat chance. Any such hopes have been brutally quashed. Economics was never a strong suit for the Prime Minister. But now he appears to be utterly in thrall to his scientific advisers, no matter how dubious their statistics or how tenuous their grasp of the harm they will inflict on businesses and jobs.
What is truly heartbreaking is that the latest version of lockdown comes at a point where firms were getting back on their feet. The economy was doing better than most had dared to predict, but those green shoots have been trampled back into the ground.
As recently as last month, the Bank of England’s chief economist, Andy Haldane, wrote in this newspaper that Britain was on course for a rapid revival.
As recently as last month, the Bank of England’s chief economist, Andy Haldane (pictured), wrote in this newspaper that Britain was on course for a rapid revival
Not any more. That recovery depended on consumer spending in shops, restaurants and pubs, boosted by employees returning to their workplaces. The Government’s efforts to get workers back in to their offices were always far too half-hearted. The guidance has now screeched into full reverse, to the delight of the Work From Home warriors.
This irrational and ill-judged clampdown has taken a sledgehammer to confidence in the business world, where many have begun to harbour serious doubts about Boris and his handling of the pandemic. There is very little in the way of light at the end of this long, dark tunnel.
The new restrictions, according to Boris, could last six months. That takes us to March 2021 and means we will have been living under some form of lockdown for an entire year.
Very few businesses can withstand such a marathon of pain.
The advice to resume working from home is particularly perilous. Not only is it a slap in the face for employers who have spent fortunes making their premises Covid-secure, it also risks the permanent corrosion of the country’s work ethic.
As an emergency measure it was highly effective. But the speed with which many employees have seized on it to argue they should be allowed to work where they please in perpetuity raises questions as to their commitment. For hundreds of thousands of people, sadly, the issue is not going to be working from home but whether they have a job at all.
Whitbread, which owns Premier Inn, announced yesterday it is cutting 6,000 jobs and Wetherspoon said it is slashing 450 of its staff – and these are before the new measures.
Whitbread, which owns Premier Inn (pictured in Liverpool), announced yesterday it is cutting 6,000 jobs and Wetherspoon said it is slashing 450 of its staff – and these are before the new measures
There is no ducking the fact there will be many, many more.
Bad though all of this is, the psychological toll is even worse.
Just when relief seemed to be in sight, firms are crushed again. This is simply soul-destroying for business people, most of whom have responded with huge grit and generosity to the pandemic.
Entrepreneurs are sometimes given a bad name but plenty have emerged with flying colours.
Legions of firms, large and small have pitched in to the national effort to beat the virus, switching production to PPE and helping local hospitals and communities.
They have strained every sinew to adapt to life with the virus but they have been kicked in the teeth and betrayed by the Government’s inconsistent and poorly thought-out handling of the crisis.
Business people are under no illusions they must comply with any sensible measures to protect the population from the virus.
They know it is in their self-interest to do so, because the sooner we conquer Covid, the sooner they can get their cash-tills ringing.
So if they were presented with rules that were clear, consistent and rational then they would find a way to cope. Unfortunately, this is far from the case.
One minute ministers are urging us in to restaurants to ‘eat out to help out’, and the next we are being treated like naughty children who can’t be trusted to behave sensibly in a bistro after our 10pm bedtime.
As the mood across the country darkens and descends into fear, it is hard to remember that only a few months ago Britain was an open, entrepreneurial and freedom-loving country.
These are qualities which are conducive to a vibrant, confident economy and which attracted investors from around the world.
Now, with its misbegotten Covid regime of curfews and even drafting in the Army, the atmosphere is chilling.
It is hardly an exaggeration to say it is starting to feel redolent of a repressive regime, with a cowed population too petrified to venture out for work or leisure.
Apart from the direct economic costs, which will be vast – £100billion and counting in Government support – if we drift in this direction much further we will pay an even heavier price. For centuries our economy has thrived through openness and liberty.
Allowing ourselves to be ruled by fear is inimical to everything that has made us a great trading nation and it threatens to ruin our chances of prosperity post-Brexit. How can we embark on a future outside the EU in a state of national funk?
I am not qualified to pass judgment on the medical prowess of Whitty and Vallance, at whose behest the PM has imposed his new curbs, though their views are disputed by rival experts in their own field.
What I can say with certainty, however, is that this is a very dangerous – and quite probably needless – gamble with our already enfeebled economy.
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Biography Finding Freedom is inaccurate and anodyne, the duchess’s OWN lawyer tells court
A gushing biography of the Duchess of Sussex is inaccurate and anodyne, her lawyer said yesterday.
In court papers, Jenny Afia said the authors of Finding Freedom had relied on creative licence to produce their best-selling account of Meghan and Harry’s lives.
Miss Afia is representing the 39-year-old duchess in her privacy battle against the Mail on Sunday. Meghan is suing the newspaper for publishing extracts of a letter she sent her estranged father Thomas Markle.
The newspaper argues the letter as well as photographs and other personal information feature in the biography – showing the duchess had permitted details of her life to be shared.
In court papers, Jenny Afia said the authors of Finding Freedom had relied on creative licence to produce their best-selling account of Meghan and Harry’s lives
But Miss Afia branded many of the book’s intimate anecdotes as ‘either extremely anodyne and/or I understand are the product of creative licence and/or are inaccurate’.
As an example she said the book detailed the duchess’s ‘hygiene and bathroom routines’ on a holiday in Botswana.
Finding Freedom says the pair stayed at the Meno A Kwena safari camp on the edge of Makgadikgadi Pans national park.
But Miss Afia said Meghan ‘has never visited nor been on safari to the Makgadikgadi Pans’ and the couple ‘have never been together to Meno A Kwena – only the Duke of Sussex has’.
An account of their first date included what they drank – a beer for him, Martini for her – what they talked about and whether or not they kissed along with the content of their follow-up text messages. Miss Afia insisted the book’s account was incorrect.
She provided a long list of other alleged inaccuracies as part of a witness statement for the High Court case. The authors, Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand, claim to have spoken to 100 sources ‘close to’ the couple and to the couple themselves.
Lawyers for the Mail on Sunday told the court Meghan ‘does not object to details… being publicly disclosed, provided that such disclosure is couched in terms that are favourable and flattering’.
They told the court on Monday there were details in the book that could only have come from Harry and Meghan themselves. In response, Miss Afia’s witness statement set out examples of mistakes in the book which she said showed there was no collusion between the royals and the authors.
She said many supposed insights had been simply copied from public sources such as newspapers, social media and TV.
Quotes about the couple’s first date – such as Harry thinking: ‘I am really going to have to up my game here’ – were taken from their engagement interview on BBC1 in November 2017.
Big seller: Finding Freedom
A passage about Harry’s feelings after the birth of his son Archie appears to be the product of creative licence, said Miss Afia.
The book says the duke texted his father with details of the birth, but the lawyer said: ‘I understand that it is widely known that the Prince of Wales does not have a mobile phone.’
She also rubbishes a description of Meghan calling a friend on FaceTime from the bath and talking about sending a ‘final message’ to her father. Miss Afia said this was incorrect because it was not the last time Meghan had messaged Thomas Markle.
An account of Harry, 36, meeting his prospective mother-in-law Doria Ragland in Los Angeles – at which they enjoyed ‘the most delicious sashimi’ – was again based on the authors’ creative licence, according to Miss Afia.
She added: ‘I understand that in fact the Duke of Sussex did not meet Meghan’s mother for the first time in Los Angeles. Indeed, the first time he and the duchess were ever in Los Angeles together was in 2020 when they relocated with their son.’
Meghan has denied ‘collaborating’ with Mr Scobie and Miss Durand, who say they did not interview the couple directly.
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Boris Johnson’s speech: Internet users try to find humour in the doom-laden coronavirus address
Boris Johnson warned Britons they faced a long hard winter of police-enforced curbs on their freedom to see off coronavirus, saying the alternative was ‘many more families losing loved ones before their time’.
It caused some to joke ‘winter is coming’ in funny jibes at the Government’s handling of the pandemic.
In a televised address to the nation the Prime Minister, flanked by a Union Jack, said he was ‘deeply, spiritually reluctant’ to make new ‘impositions, or infringe anyone’s freedom’ after unveiling new measures in Parliament today.
Social media users took the opportunity to mock Mr Johnson with posts that included pasting his face on an anime cartoon character and submerging the prime minister in a muddy puddle.
One user said: ‘Genuinely think bojo is gonna pounce out my tv with that fist movement.’
This evening’s speech caused some social media users to joke ‘winter is coming’ ahead of a tightening of coronavirus restrictions in the UK
Social media users took the opportunity to mock Prime Minister Boris Johnson with posts including pasting his face on an anime cartoon character
Another post showed Mr Johnson saluting as he became submerged in a muddy bank of water
This social media user accused Mr Johnson of being a ‘clown’ alongside photos of a creature looking sweet with the caption ‘corona at 9.59pm. A second caption, in front of a scary creature, said: ‘corona at 10.01pm’
Others complained they had to wait for the end of the address before they could watch the Great British Bake Off.
Some posted pictures of their pets watching the TV. One cat seemed engrossed while a dog seemed to be confused as it looked around towards its owner.
Speaking from Downing Street tonight Mr Johnson warned that ‘iron laws of geometrical progression are shouting at us from the graphs that we risk many more deaths, many more families losing loved ones before their time’.
And he hit out at his critics – including Tory MPs and business leaders who warned of the economic impact of what he is doing, adding: ‘To those who say we don’t need this stuff, and we should leave people to take their own risks, I say these risks are not our own.
One social media user placed a red nose on Mr Johnson to insinuate he thought the prime minister was a clown
A poster mocked the Government’s signage with a remastered version that read ‘too little / too late / again’ (right). Another poster mocked the Government’s change in messaging
Mr Johnson was compared to former wartime prime minister Winston Churchill as a social media user said he was a ‘poundland version’
A reference to Shrek saw Mr Johnson compared to Lord Maximus Farquaad who once said: ‘Some of you may die but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make’
‘The tragic reality of having Covid is that your mild cough can be someone else’s death knell.
‘And as for the suggestion that we should simply lock up the elderly and the vulnerable – with all the suffering that would entail – I must tell you that this is just not realistic.
‘Because if you let the virus rip through the rest of the population it would inevitably find its way through to the elderly as well, and in much greater numbers.’
The PM has already warned that the new curbs could last well into 2021, and tonight he warned it could take until then to get mass testing up and running fully and a new vaccine widely available.
Photos of members of the cabinet and Dominic Cummings laughing was pasted together underneath a Conservatives logo and the caption: ‘It’s one rule for us, another for you plebs’
This poster mocked Mr Johnson’s latest phrase ‘a stitch in time, saves nine’ with other English proverbs including ‘what’s good for the goose is good for the gander’
The Devil Wears Prada’s Miranda Priestly’s famous quote ‘florals… in Spring… groundbreaking’ was rewritten in this amusing meme
A photo of Mr Johnson with the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg was posted underneath: ‘Look, if you resign now you can probably be doing panto by Christmas’
He said: ‘Though our doctors and our medical advisers are rightly worried about the data now, and the risks over winter, they are unanimous that things will be far better by the spring, when we have not only the hope of a vaccine, but one day soon – and I must stress that we are not there yet – of mass testing so efficient that people will be able to be tested in minutes so they can do more of the things they love.
‘That’s the hope; that’s the dream. It’s hard, but it’s attainable, and we are working as hard as we can to get there.’
He continued: ‘Never in our history has our collective destiny and our collective health depended so completely on our individual behaviour.
‘If we follow these simple rules together, we will get through this winter together. There are unquestionably difficult months to come. And the fight against Covid is by no means over.
‘I have no doubt, however, that there are great days ahead. But now is the time for us all to summon the discipline, and the resolve, and the spirit of togetherness that will carry us through.’
Earlier today he faced barbs for introducing other swingeing new measures including a 10pm pub curfew and £200 fines for mask rule-breakers among new restrictions on social settings in England in the face of a surge of new coronavirus infections sweeping the country.
However ministers have yet to reveal the full guidance for the public on the measures that are to be put in place.
Mr Johnson warned that that the curbs may have to be left in place for six months, potentially ruining families Christmases and New Year celebrations, and taking the total time spent under coronavirus restrictions of some kind up to a calendar year.
Others complained they had to wait for the end of the address before they could watch the Great British Bake Off
This poster shared an illustration of Boris Johnson with the caption ‘stay confused’ below a verse adapted from the popular song the Hockey Pokey
Some posted pictures of their pets watching the TV. One cat seemed engrossed while a dog seemed to be confused as it looked around towards its owner
The 10pm curfew on the hospitality sector sparked an immediate industry backlash as the UKHospitality group said it was ‘another crushing blow’
Chief executive Kate Nicholls said: ‘It is hard to understand how these measures are the solution to fighting the disease when Government data shows that just five per cent of infections out of the home are related to hospitality.’
At the same time Tory MPs warned there must not be another ‘major lockdown’. They said the decision to ditch the back to work drive will cause widespread ‘dismay’ among workers who live in ‘cramped, overcrowded accommodation’.
They also warned their constituents would be furious at the new crackdown after they followed the Government’s rules only to have seen ‘people at protests, at street parties, not having action taken against them’.
Meanwhile Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned Mr Johnson that his actions did not go far enough as she banned her countrymen from visiting each other in their own homes in a bid to slash to Covid-19 R rate in Scotland.
Boris Johnson announced today that pubs and restaurants in England will be subject to a 10pm curfew from Thursday
Public Health England data reveals that of the 729 outbreaks in the week to September 13, only five per cent occurred in food outlets such as restaurants and pubs
Mr Johnson said the UK is at a ‘perilous turning point’ in the fight against the virus. He imposed a 10pm curfew on all restaurants, bars and pubs across England 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.
Dash to the altar this weekend! Hammer blow for couples tying the knot as wedding guests will be limited to 15 from Monday under new Covid rules
Wedding ceremonies and receptions in England are to be capped at 15 people, as part of new coronavirus restrictions to curb a surge in cases.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the number of people permitted at wedding celebrations is to be halved.
But he added that funeral services would be exempt from the restrictions, with the maximum number of mourners remaining at 30.
Celebrations held this weekend will narrowly avoid the new restrictions, which come into effect in England on Monday.
Setting out the measures in the House of Commons, Mr Johnson said: ‘Fifth, now is the time to tighten up the rule of six.
‘I’m afraid that from Monday a maximum of 15 people will be able to attend wedding ceremonies and receptions, though up to 30 can still attend a funeral as now.’
Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies and receptions were included in a list of exemptions to the ban on social gatherings of more than six, with up to 30 people, including the couple, allowed to attend.
Funeral services remain exempt from the rule of six, unless specified in areas with local lockdown restrictions.
A maximum of 30 people are allowed to attend a funeral in England and Wales, while no more than 20 are permitted in Scotland.
But the ban on gatherings of more than six applies to wakes or receptions held in private homes or gardens in England, unless those attending are all from the same household or support bubble.
He also announced the end of the Government’s back to work drive as he said he is now ‘asking office workers who can work from home to do so’.
The Government has been actively encouraging workers to ditch working from home and today’s U-turn represents a humiliating climbdown for the PM who earlier this month had told his Cabinet that ‘people are going back to the office in huge numbers across our country and quite right too’.
The decision to urge workers to work from home sparked dire warnings about the future of struggling town and city centres as business groups immediately demanded the Government extend its furlough scheme which is due to close at the end of October.
Mel Stride, the Tory chairman of the Commons Treasury Committee, told the PM that lockdowns ‘destroy jobs and also personal wellbeing’ as he urged the Government to pay attention to the concerns of businesses.
He said: ‘The fact the lockdowns have damaged our national economy means that in the years ahead a smaller economy will probably have serious impacts on the health of millions of people up and down our country.’
He added: ‘Yes, we should listen very carefully to the epidemiologists but we must also listen very carefully to the Treasury, to businesses and to economists too.’
Mr Johnson today announced he is making the Army available to help the police enforce stringent new coronavirus rules. 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 and crackdown on rule-breakers as he revealed fines are being doubled to £200.
Downing Street ruled out deploying soldiers on the streets however, saying they would be used ‘backfilling certain duties, such as office roles and guarding protected sites, so police officers can be out enforcing the virus response’.
The PM also said that if the new plans fail to get the disease under control 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.
Mr Johnson did not announce a ban on households mixing indoors in England but Nicola Sturgeon this afternoon followed Northern Ireland as she said that from tomorrow Scots will not be able to meet in other people’s homes, prompting questions over which of the home nations has adopted the correct approach.
‘Six months’ of curbs at a glance
- All pubs, bars and restaurants in England will be subject to a 10pm curfew from Thursday, with the PM adamant that premises must kick out all of their customers by the cut off point.
- The Hospitality sector will also be restricted to table service only as the Government outlawed drinkers making a trip to the bar.
- All retail workers and customers in indoor hospitality settings will be required to wear masks – except when they are seated to eat or drink.
- All workers who can work from home are now being encouraged to do so from tomorrow.
- Fines for breaking the rule of six and for failing to wear a face covering are increasing to £200 for a first offence.
- The police will now have the option of asking the military for support with soldiers potentially being drafted in to fulfil office roles and guard protected sites in order to allow officers more time to crackdown on rule-breakers.
- The number of people allowed to attend weddings in England is being slashed to 15 from Monday but the number of people allowed to attend a funeral will remain at 30.
- Plans for the partial return of sports fans to stadiums on October 1 has been paused.
- Rule of six exemptions are being tightened to ban indoor team sports like five-a-side-football matches.
Some experts have already warned the PM’s 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’.
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 Gove confirmed the shift on working from home this morning, telling Sky News: ‘There is going to be a shift in emphasis and one of the things that we are going to emphasise is if it is possible for people to work from home then we would encourage them to do so.
‘Now, it is important to stress there are many, many, many roles which can’t be performed from home.
‘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’.
Michael Gove today confirmed the Government is ditching its back to work drive as he said people who can work from home should now do so
The decision to ditch the back to work drive represents a damaging moment for Mr Johnson who has been actively encouraging workers to go back to their offices. A London Underground train is pictured this morning
THIRTY TWO academics urge Boris Johnson to think twice about plunging Britain into a second lockdown – as questions mount about advisors’ doomsday numbers
A group of scientists and doctors have written to the Prime Minister urging him not to opt for a second lockdown and to stop presenting Covid-19 as a mortal danger.
Thirty-two top academics have called on Boris Johnson and his scientific and medical advisers to avoid a knee-jerk reaction to rising cases and hospitalisations.
They said the debate about coronavirus is ‘unhelpful’ because it is divided between people who want total lockdowns and people who want no restrictions at all.
Calling for decision-makers to ‘step back’ and think carefully about what to do next, the researchers said there had not yet been any ‘readily observable pattern’ between tight social distancing rules and the numbers of people dying of coronavirus.
The open letter was written by Oxford’s Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Carl Heneghan, by the University of Buckingham’s Professor Karol Sikora, and by Sam Williams, director of the consultancy firm Economic Insight.
Tweeting a copy of the letter today, cancer doctor Professor Sikora pleaded: ‘We desperately need a rethink to find a better balance’.
It comes amid fierce criticism from experts of the Government’s top scientists after they presented a ‘doomsday’ scenario of 50,000 daily coronavirus cases within a month – which appeared not to be backed by data from France and Spain.
‘It is the case that we’ve been piloting some open air venues, and we do want to be able in due course to allow people to return to watch football and other sporting events,’ he told BBC Breakfast.
‘But it is the case that we just need to be cautious at the moment and I think a mass reopening at this stage wouldn’t be appropriate.’
He added: ‘It was the case that we were looking at a staged programme of more people returning – it wasn’t going to be the case that we were going to have stadiums thronged with fans.
‘We’re looking at how we can, for the moment, pause that programme. But what we do want to do is to make sure that as and when circumstances allow, (we) get more people back.’
Mr Gove was unable to say how long the Government’s 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.’
Mr Gove insisted the Government was 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.
‘They are reluctant steps that we’re taking, but they are absolutely necessary.
‘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.’
He insisted there is evidence to support the Government’s decision to set the curfew on pubs and restaurants at 10pm.
He told the BBC: ‘There is evidence that the longer venues stay open, the greater degree of social mixing that takes place.
‘So, placing a restriction like this is something that we’ve already done in parts of the country where the virus has been spreading particularly fast.’
Official Downing Street slides showed that if the current rate of infection continues there could be 50,000 coronavirus cases every day by the middle of October and that could lead to 200 plus deaths a day by the middle of November
Boris Johnson’s coronavirus lockdown statement in full
Mr Speaker, with your permission, I will make a statement on our response to the rising number of Coronavirus cases and how we must act now to avoid still graver consequences later on.
At every stage in this pandemic we have struck a delicate balance between saving lives by protecting our NHS and minimising the wider impact of our restrictions.
And it is because of the common sense and fortitude of the British people that earlier this year we were able to avert an even worse catastrophe, forming a human shield around our NHS, and then by getting our country moving again by reopening key sectors of our economy and returning children to school.
But we always knew that while we might have driven the virus into retreat, the prospect of a second wave was real.
And I am sorry to say that – as in Spain and France and many other countries – we have reached a perilous turning point.
A month ago, on average around a thousand people across the UK were testing positive for Coronavirus every day.
The latest figure has almost quadrupled to 3,929.
Yesterday the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Adviser warned that the doubling rate for new cases could be between seven and 20 days with the possibility of tens of thousands of new infections next month.
I wish I could reassure the House that the growing number of cases is merely a function of more testing, but a rising proportion of the tests themselves are yielding a positive result.
I also wish I could say that more of our people now have the antibodies to keep the virus off, but the latest data suggest that fewer than 8 per cent of us are in this position.
It is true that the number of new cases is growing fastest amongst those aged 20-29, but the evidence shows that the virus is spreading to other more vulnerable age groups, as we have seen in France and Spain where this has led to increased hospital admissions and, sadly, more deaths.
In the last fortnight, daily hospital admissions in England have more than doubled.
Tens of thousands of daily infections in October would, as night follows day, lead to hundreds of daily deaths in November and those numbers would continue to grow unless we act.
And as with all respiratory viruses, Covid is likely to spread faster as autumn becomes winter.
Yesterday, on the advice of the four Chief Medical Officers, the UK’s Covid alert level was raised from 3 to 4, the second most serious stage, meaning that transmission is high or rising exponentially.
So this is the moment when we must act.
If we can curb the number of daily infections, and reduce the Reproduction rate to 1, 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.
So we are acting on the principle that a stitch in time saves nine.
The Government will introduce new restrictions in England, carefully judged to achieve the maximum reduction in the R number with the minimum damage to lives and livelihoods.
I want to stress that this is by no means a return to the full lockdown of March. We are not issuing a general instruction to stay at home.
We will ensure that schools, colleges and universities stay open – because nothing is more important than the education, health and well-being of our young people. We will ensure that businesses can stay open in a Covid-compliant way.
However, 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 homeworking is not possible, such as construction or retail – people should continue to attend their workplaces.
And like Government, this House will be free to take forward its business in a Covid-secure way which you, Mr Speaker, have pioneered.
Second, from Thursday all pubs, bars and restaurants must operate table-service only, Mr Speaker, except for takeaways.
Together with all hospitality venues, they must close at 10pm.
To help the police to enforce this rule, I am afraid that means alas closing, and not just calling for last orders. Simplicity is paramount.
The same will apply to takeaways – though deliveries can continue thereafter.
I am sorry this will hurt many businesses just getting back on their feet, but we must act to stop the virus from being transmitted in bars and restaurants.
Third, 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, except when seated at a table to eat or drink.
Fourth, in retail, leisure, tourism and other sectors, our Covid-secure guidelines will become legal obligations.
Businesses will be fined and could be closed if they breach these rules.
Fifth, now is the time to tighten up the rule of six.
I’m afraid that from Monday, a maximum of 15 people will be able to attend wedding ceremonies and receptions.
Though, up to 30 can still attend a funeral as now.
We will also have to extend the rule of six to all adult indoor team sports.
Finally, we have to acknowledge that the spread of the virus is now affecting our ability to reopen business conferences, exhibitions and large sporting events so we will not be able to do this from 1 October.
And I recognise the implications for our sports clubs, which are the life and soul of our communities, and my RH Friends the Chancellor and Culture Secretary are working urgently on what we can do now to support them.
Mr Speaker, these rules measures will only work if people comply.
There is nothing more frustrating for the vast majority, the law-abiding majority that do comply than the sight of a few brazenly defying the rules. So these rules will be enforced by tighter penalties.
We have already introduced a fine of up to £10,000 for those who fail to self-isolate and such fines will now be applied to businesses breaking Covid rules.
The penalty for failing to wear a mask or breaking the rule of six will now double to £200 for a first offence.
We will provide the police and local authorities with the extra funding they need, a greater police presence on our streets, and the option to draw on military support where required to free up the police.
The measures I have announced all apply in England and the Devolved Administrations are taking similar steps.
I spoke yesterday with each of the First Ministers and again today and I thank them for their collaboration: the health of everyone in these islands depends on our common success.
Already about 13 million people across England are living under various local restrictions, over and above national measures.
We will continue to act against local flare-ups, working alongside councils and strengthening measures where necessary.
And I want to speak directly to those who were shielding early in the pandemic and may be anxious about being at greater risk.
Following advice from our senior clinicians, our guidance continues to be that you do not need to shield – except in local lockdown areas – and we will keep this under constant review.
I must emphasise that if all our actions fail to bring the R below 1, then we reserve the right to deploy greater firepower, with significantly greater restrictions.
I fervently want to avoid taking this step, as do the Devolved Administrations, but we will only be able to avoid it if our new measures work and our behaviour changes.
Mr Speaker, we will spare no effort in developing vaccines, treatments and new forms of mass-testing but unless we palpably make progress, we should assume that the restrictions I have announced will remain in place for perhaps six months.
For the time being, this virus is a fact of our lives and I must tell the House and the country that our fight against it will continue.
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.
I know all of this will have profound consequences for our constituents, so the government will give the House every opportunity to scrutinise our decisions.
In addition to regular statements and debates, Hon Members will be able to question the government’s scientific advisers more regularly, gain access to data about their constituencies, your constituencies and join daily calls with my RH Friend the Paymaster General.
After six months of restrictions, it would be tempting to hope that the threat has faded, and seek comfort in the belief that if you have avoided the virus so far then you are somehow immune.
I have to say that it is that kind of complacency that could be our undoing.
If we fail to act together now we will not only place others at risk but jeopardise our own futures with the more drastic action that we would inevitably be forced to take.
Mr Speaker, no British government would wish to stifle our freedoms in the ways that we have found necessary this year.
Yet even now we can draw some comfort from the fact that schools and universities and places of worship are staying open, shops can serve their customers, construction workers can go to building sites, and the vast majority of the UK economy can continue moving forwards.
We are also, Mr Speaker, better prepared for a second wave, with the ventilators, the PPE, the dexamethasone, the Nightingale Hospitals, and a hundred times as much testing.
So now it falls to each of us and every one of us to remember the basics – wash our hands, cover our faces, observe social distancing – and follow the rules.
Then we can fight back against this virus, shelter our economy from even greater damage, protect the most vulnerable in care homes and hospitals, safeguard our NHS and save many more lives.
And I commend this statement to the House.
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