OUR DESTINY IS IN OUR OWN HANDS
‘ Spirit of togetherness will pull us through six months of fighting invisible enemy’
THE country needs to summon “discipline, resolve and the spirit of togetherness” to save lives this winter.
In a heartfelt television appeal, Boris Johnson warned of “difficult months to come” with virus infections soaring.
But he insisted there are “great days ahead” if Britons can rally to defeat the disease and avoid the devastation of a second lockdown. The PM said:
“Never in our history has our collective destiny and our collective health depended so completely on our individual behaviour.”
He spoke out after unveiling new restrictions in England aimed at curbing a second wave including a 10pm curfew for pubs, bars and restaurants and an appeal for people to work from home if they can.
Mr Johnson warned that tougher measures were in the pipeline if the package failed to reverse the surge in infections.
He said: “If we follow these simple rules together, we will get through this winter together.
“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.”
Admitting his own hesitation to restrict our lives, the PM said: “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.”
The address followed meetings of his Cabinet and emergency planning committee Cobra to endorse his new restrictions.
Firms will face £ 10,000 fines for failing to enforce Covid safety rules while the penalty for flouting the ban on social gatherings of more than six people or failing to wear a mask when necessary will double to £ 200.
Retail workers and cabbies will now have to wear face coverings and moves to bring back spectators to sports stadiums are on hold.
A snap YouGov opinion poll last night showed 78 per cent of people quizzed backed the new measures.
Mr Johnson described the struggle against coronavirus as “the single biggest crisis the world has faced in my lifetime”.
He said: “In less than a year this disease has killed almost a million people and caused havoc to economies everywhere.
“Here in the UK we mourn every person we have lost, and we grieve with their families. And yet I am more certain than ever that this is a struggle we will win.”
Mr Johnson said the country had “pulled together in a spirit of national sacrifice and community” during lockdown earlier this year.
However he added: “But we have to acknowledge that while the vast majority have complied with the rules there have been too many breaches, too many opportunities for our invisible enemy to slip through undetected.
“The virus has started to spread again in an exponential way. Infections are up, hospital admissions are climbing.”
Mr Johnson insisted his Government was working “night and day” to protect people.
He added: “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.”
In a swipe at his critics, he said: “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.” He argued it was unrealistic to try to “lock up” the elderly to protect them while leaving the rest of the population free of restrictions.
Urging the nation to pull together, he said: “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.”
Speaking to MPs in the Commons earlier, Mr Johnson warned that the country was facing a “perilous turning point”.
The infection rate in the UK has almost quadrupled from around 1,000 a day a month ago to 4,000 or more a day now.
Daily hospital admissions have more than doubled over the last fortnight.
The PM said: “Tens of thousands of daily infections in October would lead to hundreds of daily deaths in November and those numbers would continue to grow unless we act.”
Mr Johnson said the new restrictions in England had been “carefully judged” to reduce the infection rate while minimising the damage to lives and livelihoods.
Apologising to pubs, bars and restaurants for the new restrictions, he said: “I am sorry this will hurt many businesses just getting back on their feet, but we must act to stop the virus from being transmit
ted in bars and restaurants. No British government would wish to stifle our freedoms in the ways that we have found necessary this year.
“Yet even now we can draw some comfort from the fact that schools and universities and places of worship are staying open, shops can serve their customers, construction workers can go to building sites, and the vast majority of the UK economy can continue moving forwards.” Under questioning from MPs, he insisted the 10pm pub curfew was designed to reduce drinking that could make people less likely to observe social distancing rules.
He said: “What we have seen from the evidence is that, alas, the spread of disease tends to happen later at night, after more alcohol has been consumed. This is one way that we see of driving down the R without doing excessive economic damage.
“That is the balance we have to strike.”
Mr Johnson rejected criticism from opposition MPs of the track and trace system.
He claimed the UK had seen a higher rate of infection compared to some other European countries because of the difficulty of getting Brits to obey the rules, adding:
“Our country is a freedom- loving country. It is very difficult to ask the British population uniformly to obey guidelines.”
Mr Johnson faced concern from some Tory MPs that further restrictions could wreck the economy.
Mel Stride, the Tory chairman of the Commons Treasury Select Committee, warned that lockdowns “destroy jobs and also personal well- being.”
He said: “Yes, we should listen very carefully to the epidemiologists but we must also listen very carefully to the Treasury, to businesses and to economists.”
Tory MP Dame Cheryl Gillan asked the PM to consider grandparents who cannot see their families, worried parents who cannot access tests for their families and businesses facing financial ruin.
Nick Fletcher, another Tory MP, said: “The blanket restrictions are affecting all people of all ages, immaterial of the actual risk posed to them.”
“Many people’s lives are being affected tremendously by these restrictions, especially the young.”
Barely an hour after Mr Johnson set out his restrictions for England, Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon announced even more far- reaching restrictions north of the border.
She said the measures, which include a ban on household visits, were necessary to bring the virus “back under control” in Scotland.