'There are difficult months to come': Boris Johnson tells nation fight against Covid is not over

Prime Minister warns there will be six more months of tough restrictions as he gives notice the Army may be drafted in to help police

Boris Johnson has called on the nation to “summon the discipline and the resolve” to get through the "unquestionably difficult" winter together as he told the public to expect six more months of Covid restrictions.

The Prime Minister announced a raft of new measures including a 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants, a 15-person cap on weddings and a return to working at home for office workers, which are likely to remain in place until March, a year on from the start of lockdown.

The army may be drafted in to help the police as he warned Britain that a tough crackdown was necessary as there were "too many breaches" of anti-covid rules. 

Amid growing fears over the economic impact of the looming shutdown, the Governor of the Bank of England warned that a new financial bailout may be necessary.

In a televised address on Tuesday night, the Prime Minister said the measures were necessary to prevent a second national lockdown which would involve school closures, saying: “We must do all we can to avoid going down that road again.” 

He warned that other measures - thought to include a ban on visits to households and the outright closure of pubs - could be introduced if the infection rate did not drop in the coming days.

The Prime Minister announced the measures before MPs yesterday 

Mr Johnson painted a bleak picture of the winter ahead, with a clear shift in tone towards giving the public the unvarnished truth rather than the “boosterism” he has been accused of in the past.

In an echo of the wartime speeches of his hero Winston Churchill, Mr Johnson said: “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.”

He also blamed rule-breakers for enabling the virus to spread, saying: “While the vast majority have complied with the rules there have been too many breaches. Your mild cough can be someone else’s death knell.”  

Speaking shortly after it was announced that another 4,926 cases of coronavirus had been detected across Britain in the past 24 hours, Mr Johnson said the Army could be drafted in to take over some police duties, freeing up officers to patrol the streets and enforce coronavirus restrictions.

It was seen as a signal to police forces that they are not doing a good enough job of enforcing lockdown rules, and led to a row with senior officers who said they did not need help.

Fines for failing to wear face coverings in places where they are mandatory will be doubled to £200 from tomorrow and businesses that fail to adhere to Covid-secure rules will be fined up to £10,000.

From Wednesday, passengers in taxis, as well as their drivers, will be required by law to wear face coverings, and from Thursday all retail and hospitality staff must also wear them by law.

Mr Johnson said the country had “reached a perilous turning point” and was following France and Spain towards a second wave which necessitated new measures across England.

In a reversal of recent policy, Mr Johnson issued an order to “work from home if you can”, which was greeted with dismay by city centre cafes and other businesses that had only just started to see their takings increase.

He also faced a backlash from his own MPs, who warned that the latest measures will “destroy jobs and also personal wellbeing”.

Hopes of crowds being able to return to spectator sports such as football and rugby were dashed after Mr Johnson said pilots of Covid-compliant crowds arranged next month would be put on hold indefinitely.

Weddings will be restricted to just 15 people from Monday - half the current maximum - indoor team sports will be banned from tomorrow, when a 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants will also come into force.

Table service will be mandatory in pubs and restaurants, meaning food and drinks cannot be ordered at the bar, and in sandwich shops customers must wear a mask unless and until they sit down to eat their purchases.

A 10pm curfew for pubs has been announced 

Mr Johnson said he was reserving the right to use “greater firepower with significantly greater restrictions” if the new rules did not bring the virus back under control.

Ministers have discussed a total ban on people visiting each other’s homes - a measure that was implemented in Scotland by Nicola Sturgeon after a meeting with Mr Johnson.

Mr Johnson said: “If we were forced into a new national lockdown, that would threaten not just jobs and livelihoods but the loving human contact on which we all depend...and ultimately it would threaten once again the education of our children.”

Professor Calum Semple, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies, said it was “very likely” that further restrictions on pubs and hospitality would be needed, while universities would have to increase online learning and England would have to follow Scotland’s lead by banning households from mixing socially.

The Prime Minister said he wanted “a greater police presence on our streets” and would give chief constables “the option to draw on military support where required”.

Mr Johnson is understood to have run out of patience with senior officers who have claimed they do not have the resources to police lockdown rules.

His offer of military help was rejected by police chiefs, who hit back by saying they did not need help from the Army, while former generals said it was not the best use of military resources.

Government sources suggested the offer of military help, together with £60m of extra funding for police and local authorities, would leave police chiefs with no excuses for failing to crack down on people and businesses ignoring laws on social distancing.

Martin Hewitt, chair of the National Police Chiefs' Council, said: "Policing is a unique role and any military support must be assessed very carefully. At the moment, no military involvement is necessary, nor do we anticipate this will be needed."

John Apter, chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said police forces needed more funding for policing the pandemic and any suggestion of soldiers on the streets was “not what policing has asked for and not what it needs”.

Writing for The Telegraph, General The Lord Dannatt, the former head of the Army, said: “We are getting quite a long way towards breaking our liberal principles when we’re encouraging our neighbours to snitch on their neighbours...I wouldn’t want to see the military involved in that in any way, shape or form - and actually, most senior policemen don’t want to be involved in that way either.”

The Government said police and local authorities would be given £60 million to support “additional enforcement activity” and insisted soldiers would, if called upon, be restricted to back office duties and guarding protected sites to free up police officers for Covid compliance, rather than having soldiers patrolling the streets or handing out fines.

Mr Johnson said the measures were reluctantly being imposed “to 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.”

A snap YouGov poll on Tuesday showed 78 per cent of the public support the new measures, with 45 per cent thinking they do not go far enough and just 13 per cent saying they are too strict.

Mr Johnson told MPs: “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.”

In Wales four more council areas were put into local lockdowns as cases continued to rise, and people across Wales were told only to make ”necessary journeys” by the Welsh First Minister.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission told Mr Johnson he must strike a balance between public health and freedoms.

Rebecca Hilsenrath, Chief Executive of EHRC, said: “We need to find the balance between saving lives from coronavirus, and allowing people the hard won freedoms that are the framework for those lives - such as a right to a private and family life, to freedom of assembly, and to an education.”