The compulsory wearing of face masks has today been extended to include galleries, cinemas and places of worship as Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed he is ‘squeezing the brake pedal’ on easing the Coronavirus lockdown.
With cases creeping up in some northern areas, there will also now be a ‘greater police presence’ to ensure people wear masks and comply with social distancing. There will be fines of up to £100 for those who flout the rules.
Boris Johnson apologised for the disruption reimposing restrictions on the north of England will cause to Eid celebrations.
Residents in all of Greater Manchester, Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Hyndburn, Pendle, Rossendale, Bradford, Calderdale and Kirklees are now banned from mixing with any other households indoors or in a garden to reduce Covid-19 infections.
Mr Johnson, speaking at a Downing Street press conference this afternoon, also said that the Government has no choice but to delay the further reopening of the economy.
He said that the scheduled August 1 return of casinos, bowling alleys and so-called close contact services like beauticians has now been pushed back to August 15 ‘at the earliest’.
England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty warned as he stood alongside the PM that the UK has potentially reached a limit for how much of society can be safely opened up.
Prof Whitty said: “We have probably reached near the limit or the limits of what we can do” and that “if we wish to do more things in the future, we may have to do less of some other things”.
He said: “We have to be realistic about this. The idea that we can open up everything and keep the virus under control is clearly wrong.”
The announcements came after the Government last night said it was reimposing partial lockdown measures on 4.5 million people living in Greater Manchester and parts of Lancashire and Yorkshire, banning mixing with any other households indoors or in a garden, because of increasing case numbers.
Boris Johnson said: “With those numbers creeping up, our assessment is that we should now squeeze that brake pedal in order to keep the virus under control.
“On Saturday August 1 we had hoped to reopen in England a number of the higher risk settings that remained closed. Today I am afraid we are postponing those changes for at least a fortnight.
“That means until August 15 at the earliest casinos, bowling alleys, skating rinks and the remaining close contact services must remain closed, indoor performances will not resume, pilots of larger crowds in sports venues and conference centres will not take place and wedding receptions of up to 30 people will not be permitted but ceremonies of course can continue to take place in line with Covid secure guidelines.
“I know that he steps we are taking will be a real blow to many people, to everyone whose wedding plans have been disrupted or cannot now celebrate Eid in the way that they would wish and I am really, really sorry about that but we simply cannot take the risk.”
Mr Johnson said the extension of the requirement to wear a face covering will apply from August 8. Currently the wearing of face masks in England is only required in shops and on public transport.