In an address to the country tonight, the Prime Minister said scientists were rightly worried about the spread of coronavirus in the UK and that “the 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 in a bid to unite the country to continue its “resolve” against the virus, he added: “Never in our history has our collective destiny and our collective health depended so completely on our individual behaviour.”
Earlier, in the Commons, Mr Johnson had announced new restrictions for England which could be in place for up to six months designed to slow the rise, including rowing back on the Government’s drive to get people back into the office, instead now saying that if employees can, they should again work from home.
The Prime Minister also announced tougher enforcement measures, with businesses facing fines or closure for failing to comply with coronavirus rules, and people facing £200 penalties for failing to wear masks where required or breaching the so-called “rule of six”.
The military could also be brought in to free up police officers to tackle coronavirus rulebreakers.
He told MPs: “We always knew that while we might have driven the virus into retreat, the prospect of a second wave was real and I’m sorry to say that, as in Spain and France and many other countries, we’ve reached a perilous turning point.”
Six further deaths were recorded in Yorkshire today in people who had previously tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the region’s total to at least 2,947. Nationally, 37 further deaths were reported, bringing the total to 41,825.
And Mr Johnson said a month ago an average of around 1,000 people across the UK were testing positive for Covid-19 every day, but the latest figure has almost quadrupled to 3,929.
In a televised broadcast tonight Mr Johnson said the coronavirus pandemic was the “single biggest crisis the world has faced in my lifetime”.
He said: “We have to acknowledge that this is a great and freedom-loving country; and while the vast majority have complied with the rules there have been too many breaches – too many opportunities for our invisible enemy to slip through undetected.”
And he added: “Of course I am deeply, spiritually reluctant to make any of these impositions, or infringe anyone’s freedom, but unless we take action the risk is that we will have to go for tougher measures later, when the deaths have already mounted and we have a huge caseload of infection such as we had in the spring.”
Other measures announced today include that from Thursday, pubs, bars and restaurants will be table-service only and hospitality, leisure and entertainment venues will be subject to a 10pm closing time. Takeaways will also close from 10pm to 5am, although they will be allowed to deliver.
Weddings will be restricted to just 15 guests, and plans to allow business conferences and crowds at sporting events from October 1 have been shelved.
Mr Johnson said: “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 schools, 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.”
However he faced some backlash from his own MPs, including Brigg and Goole’s Andrew Percy.
Mr Percy said: “I must express to [the PM] the concern of constituents in my area where our seven day rolling average is now well below 20 and falling, where people who have followed the rules have seen people at protests and street parties, not having action taken against them.
“And we will now suffer as a result of these further measures, support them though I do and in particular, hospitality will suffer.”
While Don Valley’s Nick Fletcher said “blanket restrictions are affecting all people of all ages, immaterial of the actual risk posed to them”.
He continued: “Could the Government therefore not ask individuals to carry out a personal Covid risk assessment. The results of which could determine whether someone needs to shield or can go about their daily lives?”
But Mr Johnson said: “Your harmless cough can be someone else’s death knell unfortunately, and that is why we have to apply the restrictions that we do.”
“In his speech to the nation at PM said: If we let this virus get out of control now, it would mean that our NHS had no space – once again – to deal with cancer patients and millions of other non-covid medical needs.
“And 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.
“It would mean renewed loneliness and confinement for the elderly and vulnerable, and ultimately it would threaten once again the education of our children. We must do all we can to avoid going down that road again.
“But if people don’t follow the rules we have set out, then we must reserve the right to go further. We must take action now because a stitch in time saves nine; and this way we can keep people in work, we can keep our shops and our schools open, and we can keep our country moving forward while we work together to suppress the virus.
“That is our strategy, and if we can follow this package together, then I know we can succeed because in so many ways we are better prepared than before.”