The Prime Minister has said risks taken during the pandemic are ‘not our own’ as he urged people to take new coronavirus restrictions seriously.
Addressing the nation this evening Boris Johnson said ‘the tragic reality of having Covid is that your mild cough can be someone else’s death knell’.
He said ‘locking up’ the elderly and vulnerable is simply ‘not realistic’ because the virus would ‘inevitably find its way’ to them eventually.
It comes after the PM announced a series of strict new Covid-19 restrictions including a 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants, increased fines for those breaking the ‘rule of six’ on social gatherings and and tougher rules on face masks.
The Government’s top scientists warned that the UK could face 50,000 cases per day by mid-October unless swift action was taken to bring the rise of infections under control.
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Speaking from Downing Street, Johnson warned that the virus has ‘started to spread again in an exponential way’ and said there are ‘unquestionably difficult months to come’.
He added: Infections are up, hospital admissions are climbing. We can see what is happening in France and Spain, and we know, alas, that this virus is no less fatal than it was in the spring, and that the vast majority of our people are no less susceptible.
‘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.
‘I know that faced with that risk, the British people will want their government to continue to fight to protect them, you, and that is what we are doing, night and day.
‘And yet the single greatest weapon we bring to this fight is the common sense of the people themselves – the joint resolve of this country to work together to suppress Covid now.’
Johnson reiterated his ‘package of tougher measures’ for England, as well as the Government’s decision to reverse its call for workers to head back to the office.
He added: ‘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.
‘That’s why we need to suppress the virus now, and as for that minority who may continue to flout the rules, we will enforce those rules with tougher penalties and fines of up to £10,000. We will put more police out on the streets and use the army to backfill if necessary.
‘And 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.
‘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.’
Johnson said that if too many people refuse to follow the new rules then the Government reserves ‘the right to go further’.
He added: ‘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.’
The PM pointed out that the country is ‘better prepared than before’, with more PPE, beds for patients, medicines and the NHS Nightingale hospitals at the ready.
After nearly 5,000 daily cases were confirmed today, Johnson said advisers are ‘rightly worried’ about current data and additional risks over winter.
But he added: ‘They are unanimous that things will be far better by the spring, when we have not only the hope of a vaccine, but one day soon – and I must stress that we are not there yet – of mass testing so efficient that people will be able to be tested in minutes so they can do more of the things they love.
‘That’s the hope; that’s the dream. It’s hard, but it’s attainable, and we are working as hard as we can to get there.
‘But until we do, we must rely on our willingness to look out for each other, to protect each other.
‘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.’
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