Boris Johnson has imposed a swathe of stringent new restrictions that could last for up to six months if no new coronavirus treatments or vaccines are found.
New restrictions in England from Thursday will include a 10pm curfew, enforced table service at hospitality venues and requirements that all retail and hospitality workers wear face masks at all times.
From tomorrow, everyone who is not an essential worker and can work from home has been advised to do so.
All indoor events – including indoor sports – and weddings will have a limit of six people from next week.
Rules to make businesses comply with Covid secure guidelines will be written into law, with higher fines for non-compliance.
Plans to allow crowds at sports stadiums and other similar events next month have also been scrapped.
Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said yesterday that Covid cases are doubling across the UK every seven days and that cases would reach 50,000 a day by next month if this trajectory continued.
This would lead to an estimated 200 deaths a day by November.
The Prime Minister told MPs today that the country was facing a second wave and that the UK had reached “a perilous turning point” as cases begin to rapidly rise.
He said the restrictions would be in place for six months if there are no significant treatment or testing developments in that space of time.
Johnson did not rule out the prospect of a full national lockdown if the spread of the virus was not slowed down by the implementation of the latest guidelines.
“We will spare no effort in developing treatments, vaccines, new forms of mass testing,” he said.
“But unless we palpably make progress we should assume the restrictions I have announced will stay in place for perhaps six months.
“For the time being this virus is a fact of our lives and I must tell the house and our country that our fight against it will continue.
“We will not listen to those to say let the virus rip nor to those who urge a permanent lockdown.”
Chief medical officer professor Chris Whitty warned yesterday that “the seasons were against us” and that the virus would likely spread quicker in the colder months.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he supported the new measures, but a full blown second lockdown would represent a “huge failure of government”.
He challenged the government to improve its test and trace programme throughout the autumn and winter months to stop a potential second lockdown.
The new measures will severely dent the UK’s economic recovery, particularly in the hospitality and leisure sectors.
The British Chambers of Commerce called for a “comprehensive support package for firms forced to close or reduce capacity through no fault of their own”.
The Institute of Directors (IoD) called for an extension to the coronavirus business loan scheme and a reduction National Insurance contributions to help businesses affected by the latest lockdown.
IoD policy director Roger Barker said: “With the return of more restrictions, the onus is squarely on the Government to set out the next phase of its support.
“Key schemes are set to wind down in the months ahead, but it’s clear that businesses aren’t out of the woods yet.”