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Boris Johnson Has Introduced New Coronavirus Rules And Says The Country May Not Be Back To Normal By Christmas

People will only be allowed to meet in up to groups of six from Monday (PA)

3 min read

Boris Johnson introduced new restrictions on social gatherings on Wednesday, with Chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty warning they may not be “a short-term thing”.

Under new rules—dubbed the ‘rule of six’—coming into force from Monday the maximum number of people allowed to meet in social gatherings will reduce from 30 to six. 

Boris Johnson said the goal of the change was “simplifying and strengthening” the current "complicated and confusing" rules on social distancing, making them easier for police to enforce. 

"The ban will be set out in law and it will be enforced by the police - anyone breaking the rules risks being dispersed, fined and possibly arrested,” he said at a Downing Street press conference.

The Prime Minister also explained that businesses will now be required to collect contact details for all customers and store them for 21 days, with "marshals" set to be deployed to ensure social distancing rules are followed in town centres.

The measures are being brought in due to a spike in incident rates per 100,000, with figures showing that the greatest increase in cases has been among young people.

Infection rates for those aged 20-29 are currently at 41.6, compared to 10.5 for those aged 60-9.

Professor Chris Whitty told reporters that the concern was that respiratory illnesses, like Covid-19, “have an advantage” over the winter months and it is “going to be difficult” to contain the spread.

And he added that though the restrictions “may not last for many months”, they were also unlikely to be “over in two or three weeks”. 

Elsewhere at the press conference, Mr Johnson said it was “too early to say” if the country would return to normal by Christmas.

"It breaks my heart to have to impose on these restrictions on individuals, on families and grandparents,” he said. 

But he added that young people are "more than capable of transmitting it to a much more-vulnerable generation" and he wants to protect the health system and save lives. 

Mr Johnson also set out his plans for a mass testing regime which would hopefully see 500,000 processed a day by October, with trials for the so-called “moonshot” to start in Salford next month.

"Up to now, we have used testing primarily to identify people who are positive - so we can isolate them from the community and protect high risk groups,” the PM explained.

"And that will continue to be our priority. We are working hard to increase our testing capacity to 500,000 tests a day by the end of October.

He added: "But in future, in the near future, we want to start using testing to identify people who are negative - who don't have coronavirus and who are not infectious - so we can allow them to behave in a more normal way, in the knowledge they cannot infect anyone else with the virus.

But Professor Whitty had a more muted take on the plans, insisting that the technology for 20-minute tests wasn’t currently available and that it would be "completely wrong to assume this is a slam dunk that can definitely happen."

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