Boris Johnson says the country is at a “critical moment” as the second wave of coronavirus continues to tighten its grip.
Speaking at his latest press conference today (Wednesday), the Prime Minister urged everyone to follow rules aimed at curbing the spread of the virus and demonstrate “forbearance, common sense and a willingness to make sacrifices for the safety of others”.
He warned that, if the evidence required it, “we will not hesitate to take further measures” that would “be more costly than the ones we have put into effect now”.
He was joined by England’s chief medical officer who warned hospital admissions and intensive care cases are “heading the wrong way”.
Professor Chris Whitty said the number of people in hospital was rising, particularly in hotspots, although the figures remained at a much lower level than the beginning of April.
In a stark warning, Prof Whitty added: “We have got a long winter ahead of us.”
The latest figures showed a further 7,108 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK, slightly down on the 7,143 reported on Tuesday.
The Government also said a further 71 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Wednesday. This brings the UK total to 42,143.
Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies show there have now been nearly 57,900 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
Johnson has said the latest increase in coronavirus cases showed why the Government had been forced to bring in new restrictions.
The Prime Minister told a Downing Street news conference the country was at a “critical moment” and that he would not hesitate to a bring in new measures if required.
“If we put in the work together now then we give ourselves the best possible chance of avoiding that outcome and avoiding further measures,” he said.
“I know some people will think we should give up and let the virus take its course despite the huge loss of life that would potentially entail.
“I have to say I profoundly disagree. I don’t think that is what the British people want. I don’t think they want to throw in the sponge. They want to fight and defeat this virus and that is what we are going to do.”
Confident measures will work
Boris Johnson has said he is confident Britain will get through the latest outbreak of the coronavirus.
“I am absolutely confident that with better treatments and with the prospect of a vaccine we will get through this,” he told a No 10 news conference.
“Let’s follow the rules, wash our hands, cover our faces, observe social-distancing, download the app, and together we will fight back against this virus, protect the NHS and save more lives.”
Need public co-operation
The Prime Minister said the country was “entirely dependent” on the public’s collective action in “driving down the virus”, when asked by the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg for his “honest assessment” on whether further, nationwide, restrictions were on the way.
Mr Johnson, citing a package of recent measures, restrictions and enforcements – including the so-called rule-of-six limit on socialising – said: “The answer is, I’m afraid, entirely dependent on how effective we are now in collectively driving down the virus. We know we can do it because we did it before, in March and April.
“What we hope is that if people obey the guidance – fulfil the guidance – in the way they can and the way they have in the past, we will get the spread (of the virus) down again.”
No national lockdown – yet
“The strategy is to do that while keeping the economy open – the vast bulk of the economy open – and keeping young people in education. Those have to be absolutely crucial priorities,” said the PM.
“I’m confident we can do it together if we follow the guidance. But our success will have to be judged in the days and week ahead.
“It is still too early to tell whether that package of measures will be successful.”
The UK’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance added: “Things are definitely heading in the wrong direction.”
Virus spreading differently
Johnson has said the way the virus is spreading may be different now to the way it was in March.
“We are seeing some very clear local peaks,” he told a No 10 news conference.
“It may be that this is a more localised phenomenon this time in which case all the more reason for us to concentrate on these local solutions as well as these national solutions.”
Professor Chris Whitty said that although the virus was not doubling as quickly as it was in March, the numbers could pick up again quickly.
“This small number of deaths now shouldn’t reassure us that we won’t be, in relatively short order, in quite difficult places, certainly in the regions where we are seeing significant growth at the moment.”
Threat of fines
Mr Johnson said: “It is absolutely crucial that we stop the spread of this disease.
“Wear a mask on transport in the way that is recommended.
“And, bear in mind that the fines are now very considerable and they will be imposed.”
Johnson said “common sense” about following the rules is needed as he told individuals to check the internet for the applicable restrictions.
He said: “People will pick up on various discrepancies or complications, complexities that have arisen as a result of this local approach.
“The best thing I can tell you is that everybody in the North East or elsewhere, in Merseyside, the Midlands, everywhere there are local restrictions, get on the websites, look at precisely what you’re supposed to do.
“So much of this is about common sense and about following the basics of the guidance and just restricting the possibility of transmission from yourself to somebody else, or from somebody else to you.”