Chief political correspondent
Pubs, bars and restaurants throughout England will be forced to close at 10pm from Thursday, Boris Johnson will announce in a new coronavirus crackdown.
In a House of Commons statement followed by a TV address to the nation, the prime minister will unveil a range of new measures to tackle the dramatic surge in COVID-19 cases.
The clampdown, which will include the whole of the hospitality sector being restricted by law to table service only, comes after government medical chiefs raised the COVID-19 alert level.
The chief medical officers for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales raised the level from three to four, which means a high or rising level of transmission requires enforced social distancing.
While the 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants will dismay the hospitality industry, there will be relief that the government is not proposing a total shutdown, although that could happen in some coronavirus hotspots.
London’s mayor Sadiq Khan has told Sky News he is proposing up to 15 new restrictions in the capital, including masks being worn in more public areas, curbs on weddings and funerals, and more people working from home.
The crackdown in England will be revealed by Mr Johnson in a day of frenetic activity for the prime minister, beginning with an 8.30am cabinet meeting at which ministers will be expected to sign off Downing Street’s proposals.
Mr Johnson will then chair an emergency meeting of the COBRA committee of senior ministers and officials and the first ministers of Scotland and Wales, Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford, and the first minister and deputy first minister of Northern Ireland, Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill.
That will be followed by Mr Johnson’s statement in the Commons at around 12.30pm and his TV address, which Downing Street says will be broadcast live at 8pm.
According to Number 10, the TV broadcast will be about “further ways we will confront the virus in line with the latest scientific advice, and the role everyone can continue to play in tackling the spread, including by following the social distancing guidance, wearing face coverings and washing hands regularly”.
A Number 10 spokesperson said: “No-one underestimates the challenges the new measures will pose to many individuals and businesses.
“We know this won’t be easy, but we must take further action to control the resurgence in cases of the virus and protect the NHS.”
Revealing the scale of preparation for the prime minister’s announcement of further measures, Downing Street has disclosed that throughout the weekend he held meetings with scientific advisers, ministers and senior officials to discuss the latest on the pandemic.
On Saturday, the Cabinet was briefed by the England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty, chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, and the chief economist Clare Lombardelli.
And on Sunday evening, Mr Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak held a special summit to hear scientific views from across the spectrum.
Then the working week began with Professor Whitty and Sir Patrick giving a briefing showing the number of coronavirus cases currently doubling around every seven days and warning that if that continued there could be close to 50,000 cases a day by the middle of October.
After their briefing, at which the pair outlined potential scenarios for a “very challenging winter period”, the prime minister spoke with the leaders of the devolved nations and told them the rising inflection rates were a cause for great concern, which he was taking very seriously.
“He reiterated his unwavering commitment to working with the devolved administrations as we continue to tackle the virus,” said a Number 10 spokesperson.
“They all agreed to act with a united approach, as much as possible, in the days and weeks ahead.”
Later, Ms Foster announced that people in Northern Ireland would be banned from mixing with other households indoors.
In Wales, around a third of the population will be under a form of local lockdown from Tuesday and in Scotland, Ms Sturgeon said more restrictions in Scotland would be announced shortly.
Responding to the raising of the COVID-19 alert level, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it reflected a significant shift in the current threat posed by coronavirus.
“This country now faces a tipping point in its response and it is vital everybody plays their part now to stop the spread of the virus and protect lives,” he said.
“The first line of defence has always been all of us playing our part, remembering hands, face and space, the rule of six and self-isolation of those who risk passing on the virus.”
Mr Khan later announced he had agreed a London plan with council leaders from all parties and public health experts to slow the spread of the virus and save Londoners’ lives.
He said he would be discussing the plan with Mr Johnson and asking the government to implement it.
“Without adequate testing or contact tracing in London, we have no choice but to look at other measures to slow the spread of the virus,” said the capital’s mayor.
“I firmly believe that acting early, rather than having to impose more stringent measures later, is the right thing to do both for public health and the economy.
“I know that many Londoners, like me, will be deeply frustrated at the likelihood of imminent new restrictions. Londoners have shown incredible resolve by steadfastly following the rules and doing the right thing – at great cost.
“However, taking firm action now to prevent a deeper and longer lockdown in the future is without a doubt the best thing to both save lives, and protect jobs and our economic recovery.”
© 2020 Sky UK
News – Coronavirus curfew: Pubs and restaurants will be forced to shut at 10pm