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Dominic Raab admits UK 'could end up in a national lockdown'

Dominic Raab threatens second national lockdown by CHRISTMAS if people ‘don’t play by the rules’ as Chris Whitty ‘tells Boris Johnson England may have to follow Scotland’ and ban household visits

  • Dominic Raab said the Government wants to avoid a second national lockdown
  • But he warned that is where ‘we could end up’ if people do not follow the rules
  • Foreign Sec said he hoped to be able to avoid national lockdown at Christmas
  • Came amid claims Chris Whitty told PM further crackdown will likely be needed 

Dominic Raab today warned the UK ‘could end up in a national lockdown’ if Boris Johnson’s new coronavirus crackdown fails to get the disease under control. 

The Foreign Secretary said a second shutdown ‘is what we want to avoid’ but the nuclear option remains in the Government’s ‘arsenal’ if all else fails. 

Mr Raab said he hoped ‘if everyone plays by the rules’ then the nation will be able to go into the Christmas period without a national lockdown being imposed. 

He also defended the Government’s plans to allow the police to ask the Army for help in order to boost Covid-19 enforcement. 

Mr Raab said military personnel could be drafted in to ‘relieve capacity’ and allow officers to concentrate on enforcing rules as he dismissed claims that soldiers will be patrolling the streets as ‘scaremongering’. 

The Foreign Secretary’s intervention came as critics blasted the Government for seemingly failing to take any of the responsibility for the spike in cases despite ministers presiding over numerous chaotic U-turns and policy changes in recent months. 

Tory MPs said the Government’s handling of the crisis has been a ‘total shambles’ and that repeated shifts in official guidance had left many people across the country confused as to what the rules actually are. 

Meanwhile, it was claimed that Professor Chris Whitty has told Mr Johnson that England will likely have to follow Scotland’s lead in banning visits between separate households.

England may need to follow Scotland’s lead and ban households from visiting each other, Boris Johnson has been told by his chief medical officer.

Chris Whitty, who threatened to break ‘unnecessary links between different households’ on Monday, is understood to have recommended Nicola Sturgeon’s hardline approach to coronavirus to the Prime Minister.

England’s chief medical officer reportedly believes that further restrictions are inevitable this winter and that draconian new measures – including a 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants – will not bring the virus under control. 

The Scottish First Minister claimed that advice from her chief medical officer and national clinical director was that Mr Johnson’s programme ‘on its own will not be sufficient to bring the R number down’.  

Chief medical officers from all four home nations met on Monday to agree advice to each of the devolved administrations, according to The Times. It is understood that Prof Whitty concurred with his Scottish counterpart, Gregor Smith.

Jonathan Van Tam and Jenny Harries, Prof Whitty’s deputies, are thought to believe that the tough new restrictions in England did not go far enough – but accepted that the Prime Minister would have to try less strict measures to save the economy first.   

A source told the paper the plan was a ‘phased approach’, adding: ‘We’re still in early autumn and we shouldn’t be optimistic that this won’t get worse.’

It came as Ms Sturgeon admitted that banning Scots from visiting each other’s homes is a ‘step backwards’ but will stop coronavirus from ‘spiralling out of control’. 

Mr Raab’s second lockdown warning came as: 

  • Martin Hewitt, chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ council, said the introduction of the rule of six had led to a surge in people reporting others for breaching restrictions. 
  • The City of London Corporation said it is ‘disappointed at the blanket call for office workers to return to working from home’ as it warned ‘we need to find a way of living with it that doesn’t cripple our economy’. 
  • Professor John Edmunds, a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said the Government is about to repeat the ‘mistake’ it made in March by failing to ‘react quick enough’ to a spike in case numbers. 
  • Nicola Sturgeon said a new Covid-19 ‘tipping point’ has been reached requiring new restrictions in Scotland. 
  • Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford asked people in the country to ‘think every time they make a journey’ and avoid unnecessary travel.  

Mr Johnson yesterday announced a wave of new restrictions designed to stop the spread of coronavirus. 

He imposed a 10pm curfew on pubs, bars and restaurants across England from tomorrow, extended rules on the mandatory wearing of face coverings and also urged workers to work from home where they can.

Members of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said the curfew would not be enough to slow the rate of infection.

But Mr Johnson insisted his approach was based on trying to ‘balance saving lives with protecting jobs and livelihoods’. 

However, he said he reserved the right to ‘deploy greater fire power’ should it be necessary. 

Mr Raab today said a second national lockdown could be needed to control the spread of coronavirus if the latest measures do not work. 

He told Sky News: ‘We’ve always said we’ve got a sort of repository of measures in the arsenal to take. 

‘I don’t think we would speculate about what further could be done.

‘But the reality is they will be more intrusive or we could end up in a national lockdown. That is what we want to avoid.’

The Foreign Secretary said that if ‘everyone plays by the rules’ then a national lockdown may not be needed at Christmas. 

He said: ‘Let’s hope that we can get through the winter months if we take these measures and if everyone plays by the rules, and we go into Christmas not needing to go into that national lockdown with all the impact on society and families but also the damage it would do to businesses.’

Mr Raab also defended the Government’s 10pm curfew on hospitality, despite figures suggesting just five per cent of coronavirus cases are linked to pubs, bars and restaurants.

‘We know that in bars and restaurants, particularly after people have had a few drinks, as you go into the later hours of the evening, that there’s a risk that the compliance with the guidance ebbs a little bit,’ he said. 

‘So we’re taking this measure, we’re confident based on the evidence that we’ve got domestically and internationally that it’s one element of those that we need to make.’

Mr Raab also defended the Government’s decision to offer military support to the police to free up officers to focus on enforcing coronavirus rules and imposing fines on rule breakers. 

He said: ‘The reality is there will be stronger enforcement, more powers for the police, higher levels of fines, mainly for the small minority who haven’t complied always with the rules. 

‘We don’t want them to blow it for the vast majority of people and end up in a second lockdown. 

‘The issue with the army, as throughout this pandemic they have been used to backfill, to support, for example local authorities with testing, delivery of PPE and if they can relieve any capacity for the police to do the very difficult job that they have done incredibly well, they will be there to do that.’ 

He said suggestions that there could be troops patrolling the streets was ‘scaremongering’. 

Number 10 has stressed that soldiers will not be enforcing the rules and will be used to fill office roles or guard protected sites. 

However, senior police figures have rejected the offer of help and said it is unnecessary. 

Martin Hewitt, chairman of the National Police Chiefs Council, said: ‘Any military support must be assessed carefully. At the moment, no military involvement is necessary, nor do we anticipate this will be needed.’ 

John Apter, chairman of the Police Federation, said: ‘This is not what policing has asked for and not what is needed.’  

Mr Johnson’s new coronavirus clampdown faced swift scrutiny after Nicola Sturgeon went further than the PM and announced a ban on households mixing indoors in Scotland. 

The Times reported today that Prof Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer, has told Mr Johnson that England will likely have to follow Scotland’s lead on the issue.

Prof Whitty is said to believe that further restrictions are inevitable and new measures like the curfew will not be enough on their own to get the virus under control. 

Professor Chris Whitty, pictured alongside Sir Patrick Vallance in Westminster yesterday, is said to have told Mr Johnson that a ban on household visits will likely be needed

Welsh Government bans all alcohol sales after 10pm

The Welsh Government has banned all alcohol sales across the whole country after 10pm in their own draconian coronavirus crackdown.

Pubs, cafes, restaurants and casinos in Wales must operate as table service only and close from 10pm, First Minister Mark Drakeford announced.

Off-licences including supermarkets will also be stopped from selling alcohol at the same time as part of new restrictions which come into force at 6pm tomorrow.

Mr Drakeford confirmed the measures as part of a televised address last night, following a similar announcement by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Earlier on Tuesday, he told the Welsh Parliament that he would be encouraging people in Wales to only make essential journeys.

He said reducing the amount of journeys and meetings with others resulted in ‘less danger’ being posed to people.

His deputies Jonathan Van Tam and Jenny Harries are also said to have expressed concerns that the PM’s measures do not go far enough but the trio apparently backed Mr Johnson trying his more limited restrictions first. 

Professor John Edmunds, a member Sage, said this morning that action had not been taken quickly enough back in March and that ‘mistake’ is about to be repeated.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I suspect we will see very stringent measures coming in place throughout the UK at some point, but it will be too late again.

‘We will have let the epidemic double and double and double again until we do take those measures.

‘And then we’ll have the worst of both worlds, because then to slow the epidemic and bring it back down again, all the way down to somewhere close to where it is now or where it was in the summer will mean putting the brakes on the epidemic for a very long time, very hard – which is what we had to do in March because we didn’t react quick enough in March, and so I think that we haven’t learned from our mistake back then and we’re unfortunately about to repeat it.’

Mr Raab said this morning there would always be the ‘Goldilocks criticism – too much or too little’ whenever new measures are announced. 

But he said the Government was taking a ‘balanced, targeted and proportionate approach’ and insisted the four home nations had overwhelmingly taken a ‘consistent’ approach.  

He told BBC Breakfast: ‘There’s always an evidence basis which we all look at, it’s slightly different in the four parts of the UK, although actually overwhelmingly we’ve taken a consistent and common approach.

‘We recognise that the devolved administrations have the authority to decide things in a slightly different way.’ 

In a dramatic televised address to the nation last night Mr Johnson said he was ‘deeply, spiritually reluctant’ to make new ‘impositions, or infringe anyone’s freedom’. 

But he insisted the measures are necessary and hit out at his critics as he said: ‘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. 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.’ 

Responding to the Prime Minister’s address, Telford MP Lucy Allan questioning on Twitter whether the UK’s ‘collective health’ was really at risk

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage blasted Mr Johnson’s ‘authoritarian’ response to the coronavirus crisis

The latest crackdown, which Mr Johnson said could last for six months, has sparked a growing Tory backlash amid rising anger over freedoms being taken away. 

The decision to ditch the Government’s back to work drive has caused major concerns because of fears for the future of struggling town and city centres. 

Many Tory MPs are increasingly exasperated at the Government’s handling of the crisis. 

One Conservative figure told the FT: ‘We told people to eat out, now we’re telling them to eat in. We told people to go back to the office, now we’re telling them to work from home. 

‘It’s a total shambles and I can’t see how people are going to understand it.’ 

Responding to the PM’s grim address, Telford MP Lucy Allan questioned on Twitter whether the UK’s ‘collective health’ was really at risk: ‘Measures to tackle #covid must be proportionate to the risk. The virus is a serious threat to certain vulnerable groups. 

‘We must protect these groups with targeted measures. Shutting down society causes massive damage to health, lives, and livelihoods of the whole population.’  

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage accused Mr Johnson of adopting an ‘authoritarian’ response to the coronavirus crisis. 

He tweeted: ‘The PM says we are a ‘freedom loving country’, but will fine you £10,000 and send the army in if he likes. 

This is authoritarian – I don’t believe his promises on testing or the competence of the government.’   

Boris’s Covid crackdown bans late-night takeaways but allows deliveries, shuts pubs after 10pm but not gyms, and forces workers to stay home (if bosses decide they can): The new rules explained in full  

By David Wilcock, Whitehall Correspondent for MailOnline

Boris Johnson apologetically took a hammer to Britons’ social lives today as he reintroduced lockdown measures in England to last possibly six months to see off a second wave of coronavirus.

Pubs and other leisure and hospitality businesses like restaurants will face a 10pm curfew from Thursday.

People working in retail, those travelling in taxis, and staff and customers in indoor hospitality will also have to wear face coverings – except while seated at a table to eat or drink.

And in a dramatic reversal of the Government’s recent drive to get people back to workplaces, all office workers will be advised to work from home where they can as soon as possible. 

In a grave Commons statement the Prime Minister warned that the new curbs could last for six months – taking them well beyond Christmas – ‘unless we palpably make progress’.  

Here we look at the new rules that have been unveiled: 

PUBS AND RESTAURANTS

ENGLAND

From this Thursday, businesses selling food or drink (including, cafes, bars, pubs and restaurants), social clubs, casinos, bowling alleys, amusement arcades (and other indoor leisure centres or facilities), funfairs, theme parks, and adventure parks and activities, and bingo halls will be required to closed between 10pm and 5am. Some exemptions apply, including cinemas, theatres and concert halls which have started shows before 10pm, however they will not be permitted to serve food or drink to customers after 10pm. 

Businesses and venues selling food for consumption off the premises, can continue to do so after 10pm as long as this is through delivery service or drive-thru.  Self-collected takeaways are banned after 10pm.

Customers will not be allowed to order drinks at the bar. All pubs and bars must become table service only, like restaurants.

This is a change from the current rules, where standing at the bar for a pint was allowed as long as there was social distancing in place.

It also applies to takeaway services, many of which sustained businesses through the worst of the original lockdown.

But food (and drink) deliveries are allowed to continue after 10pm because it is easier to limit human contact.

It is mandatory for certain businesses, including the hospitality and tourism and leisure sectors, close contact services, local authority run services and places of worship, to have a system to collect NHS Track and Trace data, and to ask customers to provide these details. Businesses will be required to retain these details for 21 days, and will need to ensure that the Rule of Six is not flouted. 

Boris Johnson called on the British public to ‘get through this winter together’ and said the people need to ‘summon the discipline, and the resolve, and the spirit of togetherness that will carry us through’ 

WALES, SCOTLAND AND NORTHERN IRELAND

The same rules for England are expected to apply in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The devolved administrations will announce their plans this week.

IS THE 10PM CURFEW ECONOMICALLY DAMAGING?

The Prime Minister told the Commons ‘the spread of the disease does tend to happen later at night after more alcohol has been consumed’.

In reply to Meg Hillier, Labour chairwoman of the Commons Public Accounts Committee he said: ‘These are not easy decisions, nobody wants to be curtailing the right of restaurants and other businesses to go about their lawful business.

‘What we have seen from the evidence is that alas the spread of the disease does tend to happen later at night after more alcohol has been consumed.

‘This is one way that we see of driving down the R without doing excessive economic damage and that’s the balance we have to strike.’

Ministers have been warned that a 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants will be the ‘final nail in the coffin’ for many businesses still treading water after the first wave of Covid-19.

Exasperated hospitality bosses are fuming that they are bearing the brunt of Boris Johnson’s coronavirus crackdown when Government figures show a comparably low spread of the disease in food and drink outlets.

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 – 45 per cent were in care homes, 21 per cent in schools and 18 per cent in places of work.

People sit in a restaurant in Covent Garden in London today as the PM clobbered civil liberties

Pubs like the French House in Soho, central London, will have to close at 10pm. That is not last orders at 10pm, that is close at 10pm.

Wetherspoons founder Tim Martin said: ‘The curfew doesn’t even stand up to five minutes consideration by an intelligent person because if you look at the stats… there are relatively few transfers of infections in pubs.’

The Government faced renewed calls to do more to support businesses, with the hospitality industry warning that the new restrictions would be a ‘crushing blow’.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade body UKHospitality, said: ‘It is hard to understand how these measures are the solution to fighting the disease when Government data shows that just 5 per cent of infections out of the home are related to hospitality.’

Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, warned the measures could trigger ‘a surge of unregulated events and house parties which are the real hot-beds of infection, attended by frustrated young people denied access to safe and legitimate night-time hospitality venues’.

Up to 6,000 jobs are being axed at Premier Inn owner Whitbread, which also operates the Beefeater pubs and Brewers Fayre chains.

The Wetherspoon pub chain also said it had written to its 1,000 airport staff to warn them that between 400 and 450 jobs are at risk of redundancy.

Officer workers have been told to work from home ‘if possible’ although those in ‘key public services and in all professions’ where this is not possible, such as construction and retail, should continue to go in

WORKING FROM HOME

This is likely to be one of the areas fraught with confusion.

The official guidance for England says: ‘Where an employer, in consultation with their employee, judges an employee can carry out their normal duties from home they should do so.’

It is unclear what happens if employers and employees disagree about their ability to ‘carry out their normal duties from home’.  

Public sector employees working in essential services, including education settings, should continue to go into work where necessary. 

Anyone else who cannot work from home should go to their place of work. 

The risk of transmission can be substantially reduced if Covid-secure guidelines are followed closely. Extra consideration should be given to those people at higher risk.  

According to Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove: ‘We are stressing that if it is safe to work in your workplace, if you are in a Covid-secure workplace, then you should be there if your job requires it.

‘But, if you can work from home you should.’ 

The new message brings England into line with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which have all advised people to work from home wherever possible throughout the pandemic.

If businesses are not Covid-secure, flout the mask regulations or break the Rule of Six, they will be fined £10,000 or closed down.

If people prevent others from self-isolating – such as bosses threatening redundancy – they can also be fined.

FACEMASKS

Face masks must be worn on public transport and in many indoor spaces, including shops, shopping centres, indoor transport hubs, museums, galleries, cinemas and public libraries. 

From tomorrow it will be law for passengers to wear face coverings in taxis and private hire vehicles, and from Thursday, face coverings must also be worn in hospitality venues, like restaurants and bars, other than when you are eating and drinking. Staff in retail and hospitality settings will also be legally required to wear face coverings. 

If necessary, the police and Transport for London (TfL) officers have enforcement powers including issuing fines of £200 (halving to £100 if paid within 14 days). 

It comes after the World Health Organisation and numerous studies suggested they are beneficial.

As announced, the Government will bring forward changes to mean that for repeat offenders these fines would double at each offence up to a maximum value of £6,400.  

The Prime Minister has also announced tougher enforcement measures, with businesses facing fines or closure for failing to comply with coronavirus rules, meaning there will be consequences for pubs that try to serve you at the bar.

Commuters walk across the London Bridge during the morning rush hour in September

A man enjoys a a drink at The Kings Ford pub in Chingford, East London, as the PM made his announcement in the Commons this afternoon

National Police Chiefs’ Council chairman Martin Hewitt said: ‘Individuals, businesses and households all have a responsibility to ensure the virus is suppressed and police will play their part in supporting the public to navigate the measures in place for our safety.

‘Our approach of engaging with people and explaining the regulations in place will remain. The vast majority of situations are resolved following those two stages, with little need for further encouragement or enforcement action to be taken,’ he said.

‘Police will continue to work with their communities and only issue fines as a last resort.

‘Chiefs will be stepping up patrols in high-risk areas and will proactively work with businesses, licensing authorities and local authorities to ensure the rules are being followed.

‘If members of the public are concerned that the law is being broken or they are experiencing anti-social behaviour, they can report this to the police, who will consider the most appropriate response and will target the most problematic behaviour.’

RULE OF SIX AND SELF-ISOLATION

In England, a maximum of six people from multiple households can meet up both indoors and outdoors — in private homes, pubs, restaurants and parks. 

All ages are included in the headcount. There are some exceptions — for example, when a single household has more than six occupants.

The Rule of Six has been extended to take in ‘leisure, entertainment, tourism and close contact’ sectors’. The latter includes hairdressers and other beauty treatments.

More details are awaited on what else specifically it will mean for places like gyms, although Mr Johnson today banned indoor group sports like five-a-side football.

So it means that currently hairdressers, nail bars and beauty salons can still operate, but they will need to cut still further the number of people they can serve at any one time. 

Anyone who breaks the rules on social gatherings in England will be fined £200 with the penalty doubling on each further repeat offence up to £3,200.

Businesses that break the Rule of Six will be fined £10,000 or closed down.

Further guidance is expected on the specifics of this but has yet to be published by the Government.

People with coronavirus symptoms who do not self-isolate will face fines of £1,000, rising to £10,000 for repeat offences from September 28.

Downing Street said soldiers could also be drafted in under Operation Temperer to help the police enforce the strict measures. 

A spokesperson said that troops would not be handing out fines or closing businesses but could be used to guard sites such as Buckingham Palace, Downing Street and Parliament to allow police to devote their resources in enforcing the new measures.      

Operation Temperer allows for up to 5,000 service personnel from all three services to ‘augment armed police officers engaged in protective security duties’ at these sites.

It is used to help support the police in the wake of terror attacks or public disorder and was first used in the UK in the aftermath of the Manchester Arena bombing.

The PM’s spokesman said: ‘[The police] will have the option to draw on military support, using tried and tested mechanisms.

‘This would involve the military backfilling certain duties, such as office roles and guarding protected sites, so police officers can be out enforcing the virus response.

‘This is not about providing any additional powers to the military, or them replacing the police in enforcement roles, and they will not be handing out fines. It is about freeing up more police officers.’ 

However Martin Hewitt, the chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said no military involvement was necessary.

He 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.’    

SCHOOLS

Schools will remain unaffected by the new restrictions. Along with protecting the economy, one of the main thrusts of today’s announcements is the Government’s desire to prioritise keeping schools open.

Mr Johnson said: ‘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.’

WEDDINGS AND FUNERALS

From next Monday, wedding ceremonies and receptions in England have to be capped at 15 people — down from 30 people.

But funeral services are exempt from the new restrictions, with the maximum number of mourners remaining at 30.

Celebrations held this weekend will narrowly avoid the new restrictions.

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.’

From next Monday, wedding ceremonies and receptions in England have to be capped at 15 people — down from 30 people. But funeral services are exempt from the new restrictions, with the maximum number of mourners remaining at 30

Current guidance states that up to 30 attendees are permitted in Wales, while in Scotland, ceremonies and receptions are limited to 20 people, and numbers are dependent on the venue in Northern Ireland.

One bride, due to get married on December 12 after being engaged for five years, who had originally planned a wedding with 100 people in Norfolk, said she felt ‘gutted’ following the announcement.

‘We are then seeing people say online that it doesn’t matter, it’s not important and at least we don’t have Covid and then we feel like our feelings are not valid,’ 40-year-old Laura Brown told the PA news agency.

‘It’s a day but it’s so much more than a day, because of all the emotions that go into it.’

Meanwhile, self-employed wedding celebrant Chris Gray, from Glasgow, called the restrictions around weddings ‘nonsensical’, such as couples being required to wear coverings during the ceremony.

The 29-year-old added: ‘That’s led so many people having to cancel or rearrange weddings and in the short-term it’s been an absolute hammer blow for cash flow for me.’

OTHER PUBLIC SPACES

TRAVELLING

People can spend time outdoors, including for exercise, as often as they wish. At all times, they should follow the guidance on group sizes, meeting in groups of no more than six unless there is an exception set out in law.  

They should aim to walk or cycle if you can, but where that is not possible they can use public transport or drive. 

It is difficult to socially distance during car journeys and transmission of coronavirus can occur in this context. 

So people should avoid travelling with someone from outside their household or their support bubble unless they can practise social distancing.

SPORTS MATCHES

In England, a maximum of six people can take part in indoor team sports. However, large sports events and conferences will not take place from October 1, as previously planned.

Mr Johnson announced that the planned return of spectators to sports venues in England could be on hold for six months, raising the prospect of months more of games behind closed doors.

A number of pilot test events, in which capacities have been capped at 1,000, have taken place and it was hoped venues would be allowed to welcome more spectators from the start of October.

In England, a maximum of six people can take part in indoor team sports. However, large sports events and conferences will not take place from October 1, as previously planned

In England, a maximum of six people can take part in indoor team sports. However, large sports events and conferences will not take place from October 1, as previously planned

But the PM set out a range of tough new restrictions for England designed to limit the spread of Covid-19.

‘We have to acknowledge that the spread of the virus is now affecting our ability to reopen business conferences, exhibitions and large sporting events,’ he told the House of Commons.

‘So we will not be able to do this from October 1 and I recognise the implications for our sports clubs which are the life and soul of our communities, and… the Chancellor and the Culture Secretary are working urgently on what we can do now to support them.’

He said the measures being announced on Tuesday would remain in place for ‘perhaps six months’.

It is a devastating blow to sporting organisations, many of whom rely heavily on match-day revenue for survival, and there have already been calls from governing bodies for the government to provide emergency funding.

Professional sport, including the Premier League and Test cricket, has largely been played behind closed doors since it returned following the coronavirus shutdown earlier this year.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport confirmed all pilot events scheduled for September had now been cancelled. They will now take place with no fans.

In a statement this afternoon, the Premier League said fans would be ‘as safe or even safer than at any other public activity currently permitted’.

‘The Premier League notes the Government’s announcement today and while the health of the nation must remain everyone’s priority, we are disappointed that the safe return of supporters to matches has been postponed,’ it said.

‘The Premier League is certain that, through League-wide guidelines and a code of conduct developed with scientific experts and agreed by the Government’s Sports Ground Safety Authority, fans in stadiums will be as safe or even safer than at any other public activity currently permitted. This is already evident in other European leagues.’ 

How long will the new restrictions be in place for? 

The new restrictions brought in today could last for six months – but Mr Johnson has insisted they are not a return to the national lockdown seen in March. 

He said: ‘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 those who urge a permanent lockdown. We are taking decisive and appropriate steps to balance saving lives with protecting jobs and livelihoods.’ 

Many families will be anxious for Christmas after hearing the new rules – but ministers have insisted they do not want to ruin the holiday season. 

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