Prime Minister Boris Johnson said “we must act” to prevent another lockdown as virus cases rise in England.
He set a new “rule of six” restricting gatherings to a maximum of six people, imposed on fines or arrests.
Mr. Johnson also devised a “moonshot” plan to control the virus in mass testing.
It came as the UK reported another 2,659 cases of coronavirus, the fourth day running of more than 2000 reported cases.
“I want to be very clear, these measures are not another national lockdown. The whole point of them is to prevent a second national lockdown,”; Mr. Johnson said.
He added that “it breaks my heart to have to insist on this restriction”.
The prime minister said the government was “working hard” to increase testing capacity to 500,000 tests a day by the end of October.
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But he said they also want to use new types of tests “in the near future” to identify people who do not have coronavirus and are not contagious so that they can live life “in a more normal way”.
He said these swab or saliva tests could rotate for 90 or even 20 minutes, with millions being processed daily – an effort to “moonshot” to restore normal life even if a vaccine or treatment is not available.
‘A very challenging winter’
“We expect this method to be widespread in the spring and if all goes together it may be possible – even for some of the poorest sectors such as cinemas – to have a life closer to normal before Christmas.”
Developing rapid coronavirus tests that can deliver results up to 20 minutes would be a good step.
This can lead to regular testing of the entire population, allowing us to return to normal life.
But it depends on the success of the pilots. Then you need to make them and distribute them. There are many ifs and buts.
The prime minister said he hoped they could be used in the spring – that was very ambitious.
In the meantime, it will prove to be a very challenging winter.
Respiratory viruses tend to work better in colder weather and when people spend more time indoors.
Introducing new restrictions limiting all gatherings to six people, Mr Johnson said the government was “simplifying and strengthening policies” after comment from police and the public.
He said the restrictions could only be imposed “as long as necessary”.
“I apologize for that. I wish we did not take this step, but as your prime minister I must do what is necessary to stop the spread of the virus and save lives,” he said.
The new “rule of six” means:
- Social gatherings of more than six people in England will not allow the law from Monday, September 14th
- The new rule applies to people in private homes, indoors and outdoors, and places such as pubs, restaurants, cafes and public outdoor spaces
- This applies to all ages
- The rule does not apply to schools and workplaces, or wedding, funeral and organized team sports
- A full list of exemptions must be published before the law changes
- People ignoring the police can be fined £ 100 – doubling each offense to a maximum of £ 3,200
Currently, the guide says that two households of any size are allowed to be identified indoors or outdoors, or up to six people from different outdoors. Until now the police have no power to stop the gathering unless they exceed 30.
The number of people allowed to be identified internally or externally varies in the four UK countries. If you meet indoors: up to eight people from three different households may meet Scotland; up to six people from two households in Northern Ireland; up to four households can form an “extended household” in Wales.