UK prime minister Boris Johnson has said he will “not hesitate” to introduce further restrictions on daily life to tackle the COVID-19 second wave, fuelling fears among business leaders of more government-ordered closures.
At a press conference in Downing Street on Wednesday, Johnson said: “If the evidence requires it, we will not hesitate to take further measures that would, I’m afraid, be more costly than the ones we’ve put into effect now.”
The prime minister earlier this month introduced new restrictions limiting people to gatherings of six and last week told pubs and restaurants to shut by 10pm in a bid to curb the spread COVID-19. People have been urged to work from home, marking a u-turn on earlier guidance, and local lockdowns have been introduced in hotspots in the North of England.
“I wish I could tell you tonight that the impact of this package has already begun to appear but it will take time,” Johnson said.
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The Evening Standard reported on Wednesday that restrictions on mingling between households in London could be brought in as soon as next week.
At his press conference, the prime minister urged the public to follow the rules in their local area in order to avoid further restrictions. Johnson said the UK was at a “critical moment.”
“I really don’t want to do this. I don’t want to go back to a national lockdown,” Johnson said. “We want to keep the economy moving.”
The prime minister’s warning is likely to alarm business groups, which have already warned of the impact of the recent new restrictions.
Carolyn Fairbairn, the director general of the Confederation of British Industry, last week said curfew rules dealt a “crushing blow” to many bars and restaurants. She said a second full lockdown “would be devastating for our economy.”
“The government might have no choice but to resort to ordering businesses to close across the UK again,” Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, wrote in a note last week.
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He said the “logical first step” would be to close bars and restaurants. This would halt the recent rebound in UK GDP and return the economy to contraction.
Data published on Wednesday confirmed the lockdown between March and June heralded the worst recession in modern history in the UK.
New COVID-19 cases have been rapidly rising in recent weeks and the prime minister has said the UK is in the midst of a second wave. Britain recorded 7,143 new cases on Tuesday, the highest daily total yet.
Johnson said the UK recorded 7,108 new COVID-19 cases over the last 24 hours and has recorded 71 new deaths linked to the virus for the past two days.