The prime minister has warned that new measures design to mitigate the spread of coronavirus are likely to last for the next six months.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Boris Johnson said the UK had reached a “perilous turning point” as a second wave of infection engulfs the country.

“I am sorry to say that – as in Spain and France and many other countries – we have reached a perilous turning point,” he told MPs.

“A month ago, on average around a thousand people across the UK were testing positive for Coronavirus every day. The latest figure has almost quadrupled to 3,929.

“Yesterday the chief medical officer and chief scientific adviser warned that the doubling rate for new cases could be between seven and 20 days with the possibility of tens of thousands of new infections next month.”

Johnson said the rise in infections is not the result of increased testing as some have suggested as the number positive results as a proportion of tests was rising steadily. He added that levels of immunity among the population was still very low at less than eight per cent.

The prime minister said that while infections are greatest among younger people, the virus was now spreading to the older and more vulnerable and that hospital admissions were increasing.

“It is true that the number of new cases is growing fastest amongst those aged 20-29,but the evidence shows that the virus is spreading to other more vulnerable age groups,as we have seen in France and Spain where this has led to increased hospital admissions and, sadly, more deaths,” he said.

“In the last fortnight, daily hospital admissions in England have more than doubled.

Tens of thousands of daily infections in October would, as night follows day, lead to hundreds of daily deaths in November and those numbers would continue to grow unless we act.”

The measures announced today include the closure of pubs and restaurants at 10 pm, mandatory wearing of masks by staff working in retail and hospitality and gatherings in all locations are limited to no more than six people.

And, in an apparent U-turn from previous attempts to urge a return to office working , Johnson said that people should now work from home if they can.

“…we are once again asking office workers who can work from home to do so,” he said.

Date published: September 22, 2020

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