Yesterday, on the advice of the four Chief Medical Officers, the UK’s COVID alert level was raised from three to four, the second most serious stage, meaning that transmission is high or rising exponentially.

The Prime Minister has made a statement to the Commons today. This covered these main points:

  • Office workers who can work from home should do so.
  • From Thursday, all pubs, bars and restaurants must operate table-service only, except for takeaways. Together with all hospitality venues, they must close at 10pm.
  • The face coverings will be extended to include staff in retail, to all users of taxis and private hire vehicles, and to staff and customers in indoor hospitality, except when seated at a table to eat or drink.
  • In retail, leisure, tourism and other sectors, Covid-secure guidelines will become legal obligations. Businesses will be fined and could be closed if they breach these rules.
  • The rule of six will be tightened. From Monday, a maximum of 15 people will be able to attend wedding ceremonies and receptions, though, up to 30 can still attend a funeral as now. The rule of six will also have to extend to all adult indoor team sports.
  • The spread of the virus is now affecting the ability to reopen business conferences, exhibitions and large sporting events. Plans to do so will be on pause.

Other points:

  • Local lockdowns will continue where necessary. Where local lockdown areas are under more stringent measures these will continue for as long as necessary.
  • The penalty for failing to wear a mask or breaking the rule of six will now double to £200 for a first offence.
  • Following advice from senior clinicians, people do not need to shield – except in local lockdown areas. This will be kept under constant review.
  • If these actions fail to bring the R below 1, then the Government reserves the right “to deploy greater firepower, with significantly greater restrictions”.

It is vital to remember the basics – washing hands, covering faces, observing social distancing – and following the rules.