Britons ‘face 10pm curfews and pubs could be forced to shut in just TWO WEEKS’ unless Rule of Six brings down Covid cases – but schools WON’T shut
- Boris Johnson has imposed ‘Rule of Six’ in bid to curb rise in coronavirus cases
- Ministers warning they are ready to take even tougher action if it doesn’t work
- Government determined schools won’t close over effect on children’s prospects
Britons could face an even tougher lockdown within two weeks unless the Rule of Six brings down coronavirus cases, it was claimed today.
Ministers and government officials insist they are ready to take more draconian steps to stop the spread, despite a wave of criticism.
Options on the table could range from curfews to closing pubs – although there is a determination that schools will stay open.
‘Lockdown is the only thing that we know works, to be frank,’ one government science adviser told ITV.
The dire prospect has been raised amid fears that the disease is on the verge of spiralling out of control again.
Although cases have spiked over 3,000 a day, it had been mainly among younger people, who are less likely to be badly affected.
The ‘Rule of Six’ imposed by Boris Johnson on Monday makes it illegal to have larger gatherings, although in Scotland and Wales children under 12 do not need to be counted in the numbers
A group of people enjoy the September sunshine near City Hall in London yesterday
However, alarm has been sparked by early signs that hospitalisations are on the rise again, and infections are becoming more common among older people.
The problems have been exacerbated by the testing system descending into chaos after schools returned, with high demand for children to be checked.
The ‘Rule of Six’ imposed by Boris Johnson on Monday makes it illegal to have larger gatherings, although in Scotland and Wales children under 12 do not need to be counted in the numbers.
Ministers have suggested they are following the example of Belgium, where a surge appears to have been tackled using tight limits on gatherings and curfews.
A senior member of the government told ITV’s Robert Peston that there was ‘no possibility of us waiting for the death rate to rise before we act’.
They added that the government will reassess whether the Rule of Six has been enough to control the situation in fortnight – but there is a widespread view that schools should not be shut again.
A leading scientific advisor reportedly said: ‘I think that if we want to keep schools open, we probably have to give serious consideration to a wide range of other measures to stop a major second wave.
‘And we have to think about doing that right now – which we are starting to do.’
The possibility of a harsher crackdown comes despite a major Tory backlash at the restrictions on everyday life.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock yesterday batted away furious demands for young children to be exempted from the rules in England to save Christmas.
He was repeatedly pressed on the ‘unfair and inflexible’ restrictions as he made a statement in the Commons this afternoon.
Senior Conservatives lined up to urge the government to copy the Scottish and Welsh administrations, which have said that children aged under 12 do not count towards the limit on gatherings.
Police on patrol enforcing the new social distancing laws in sunny Hyde Park yesterday
Health Secretary Matt Hancock was repeatedly pressed on the ‘unfair and inflexible’ Covid restrictions as he made a statement in the Commons yesterday
But while Mr Hancock insisted he understood the ‘impact’ the rules were having, he said ‘simplicity’ was crucial for them to be effective.
Home Secretary Priti Patel warned yesterday that two families bumping into each other on the street would be breaking the new law.
She said more than half-a-dozen people stopping to chat after accidentally meeting up would constitute ‘mingling’.
Lawyers questioned whether that was the case – but No10 offered backing, saying: ‘You can expect the police to ask you to disperse.’
Ms Patel also said she would report her own neighbours for any behaviour she believed was ‘inappropriate’ and risked spreading the virus.
The comments came as police complained that they had been left in the dark on how to enforce the tough restrictions, with no guidance and widespread anger among the public.