Sept. 22 (UPI) — British Prime Minister Boris announced a series of new measures on Tuesday that aim to control a surge in COVID-19 cases, including mandatory face mask use.
Speaking to Parliament in London, Johnson said Britain is at a “perilous turning point” in the pandemic as new cases have been doubling about once a week.
The measures include a no-standing requirement that all patrons sit at restaurant tables or bars, which must now close by 10 p.m., and mandatory face masks for retail staffers, taxis and private hire vehicles.
Other provisions include urging British employees to work from home, a maximum of 15 people at weddings and cancelling plans for a phased reopening at sports stadiums.
Johnson said the new measures are not a “return to the full lockdown of March,” but cautioned they could last for several months.
“I am sorry to say that — as in Spain and France and many other countries — we have reached a perilous turning point,” he said.
“If we can curb the number of daily infections, and reduce the reproduction rate to 1, then we can save lives, protect the NHS, and the most vulnerable, and shelter the economy from the far sterner and more costly measures that would inevitably become necessary later.”
Johnson said guidelines for retail, leisure, tourism and other sectors will become mandatory. Those who don’t wear a face covering could now face twice the fine for a first offense.
Labor Party leader Keir Starmer said he supports the stricter measures, but acknowledged the British public is losing confidence in the government.
“One day people were encouraged to work in the office — in fact more than encouraged, they were openly challenged by the prime minister for not doing so. Today they’re told the opposite,” he said. “This is a time of national crisis but we need clear leadership.”