Boris Johnson STOPS further unlocking on raft of activities as coronavirus infections rise in UK

BORIS Johnson today hit the brakes on easing the coronavirus lockdown.

Speaking from Downing Street this afternoon, the Prime Minister vowed he wouldn’t “stand by and let this virus threaten more heartache across our country.”

Boris Johnson hit the brakes on lifting the easing of lockdown

He announced that most of the measures which were to be lifted tomorrow would now be put on ice for two weeks in a desperate attempt to stop the spread.

Boris said that new ONS figures showed 4,900 new cases every day – signalling the “first rise since the end of May”.

He said this was an increase on 3,000 new cases everyday on July 14 and 2,000 new cases at the end of June.

1 in 1,500 now have the virus, compared to 1 in 1,800 on July 15.

Speaking from Downing Street today, the PM said Brits needed to remain vigilant, saying: “We should now squeeze the brake pedal in order to keep the virus under control.

“We must keep our focus and we can’t be complacent.”

The reopening of leisure centres including skating rinks, casinos and bowling alleys has now been pushed back along with small wedding receptions.

Socially-distanced theatres and music venues had also been expected to open but this was also put on hold until at least August 15 while Brits will now have to wear a face mask in cinemas.

Sports fans will also not be allowed to return to live events.

And Boris urged Brits to “plan for the worst and hope for the best”, adding: “I know that the steps we are taking will be a real blow to many people, to everyone whose wedding plans have been disrupted or who cannot now celebrate Eid in the way that they would wish.

“And I’m really, really sorry about that but we cannot simply take the risk.”

The ONS today revealed evidence of an increase in the rate of new infections per day

The new lockdown rules were brought in overnight, with a woman seen walking through Manchester

Worshippers social distance for Eid in Bradford, West Yorkshire

Queues of cars formed at a mobile coronavirus testing centre in Blackburn

The move comes after the Office for National Statistics today revealed the number of coronavirus cases had increased with 35,700 people currently infected with the bug.

The new stats suggest around 4,200 new cases were recorded per day through July 20 to July 26.

Boris said that the bombshell newcoronavirus rules announced last night as “targeted measures” to control the bug.

Brits had been left confused after 4.5million people were issued with fresh lockdown demands with just three hours’ notice.

The government revealed at 9.16pm that households in Greater Manchester, parts of East Lancashire and parts of West Yorkshire were banned from meeting each other indoors from midnight last night.

The sudden new rules – which mean that people can still go to work and even visit shops and cafes but cannot go inside other homes – have left the public reeling.

One local wrote last night pointed out the confusing nature of the guidelines, saying it was “utter shambles” – adding that despite home visits being banned, “you’re still allowed to work, public transport, the pub, the leisure centres, the hairdressers, the parks.”

Another added: “So I can’t visit family in their house or garden but I can go to a pub, for a meal or shopping or use public transport with complete strangers?”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock himself today appeared muddled by the new guidelines, suggesting on BBC Breakfast that households in the lockdown area could visit those outside of the impacted regions – contradicting the official advice.

According to the guidelines published this morning, it is illegal for people who are in the affected region to visit other homes regardless of whether it is in or out of the restricted area.

About 4.5million people will be affected by the new lockdown rules – which are expected to be subject to a weekly review.

What the new rules mean:

  • You can go to the pub or a restaurant, but only with your household/bubble
  • You can only be with members of your household or bubble in your home or garden
  • You can celebrate Eid and go to a place of worship but only if you follow social distancing – celebrations with members outside your household cannot take place in your home or garden
  • You can go on holiday but only with members of your household or bubble

The affected areas include all of the 2.8million residents of Greater Manchester, as well as the Lancashire towns of Blackburn, Burnley, Hyndburn, Pendle and Rossendale.

West Yorkshire, Bradford, Calderdale and Kirklees were also hit.

Leicester was also included in the households ban, but pubs, restaurants and hairdressers will reopen on Monday. However, leisure centres, gyms and pools will remain closed.

And others flagged concerns that the lockdown had been brought in just as Eid celebrations began today.

The Muslim Council of Britain’s secretary general, Harun Khan, criticised the way the announcement was made, saying: “With the first day of Eid being today, for Muslims in the affected areas, it is like being told they cannot visit family and friends for Christmas on Christmas Eve itself.

“Whilst the safety of communities is of paramount importance, as has remained the case from the very outset of this crisis, so is effective communication delivered in a timely fashion.

“Failure to communicate makes it difficult for communities across the country to continue working together to minimise the spread of the virus, whilst eroding trust in the ability of authorities to steer our course as we tackle the Covid-19 crisis.”

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi today slammed the “lack of clarity” over the message on Good Morning Britain, saying she had received calls up to 1am overnight by confused members of the community.

The move was criticised as ‘utter shambles’
Brits have been left confused by the new rules introduced overnight
A woman wearing a face mask walks through Manchester

A woman wearing a face mask walks through the centre of Bradford, West Yorkshire, one of the areas where new measures have been implemented to prevent the spread of coronavirus

A worshipper uses hand sanitiser at the Bradford Grand Mosque on the first day of Eid in Bradford, West Yorkshire, one of the areas where new measures have been implemented

Greater Manchester woke up to new coronavirus rules this morning

A man wearing a face mask has his temperature checked to try stop the spread of coronavirus, before being allowed to go into Manchester Central Mosque

And Health Secretary Matt Hancock this morning was left trying to defend the move, saying the move had been “absolutely necessary”.

Speaking to Sky News, he said the new rules were “crystal clear”, saying the test and trace data had shown “most of the transmission is happening between households.

He added: “Everyone can see that the problem with this virus is it thrives on the social contact that makes life worth living.”

The Health Secretary had last night said he was introducing the new measures with a “heavy heart” – tweeting the announcement at 9.16pm with details published two hours later before the full guidelines were released this morning.

When asked about the Islamic celebration of Eid, he said his “heart goes out” to the community, adding: “Unfortunately this change does mean that people won’t be able to get together in their houses, in their gardens.

“But we are allowing mosques and other religious places to stay open because they’ve done so much work to allow for Covid-secure celebration and worship.”

Labour leader Keir Starmer said he would not argue with local action to reduce the transmission of the virus but said: “Announcing measures affecting potentially millions of people late at night on Twitter is a new low for the government’s communications during this crisis.”

He added: “For all the bluster, government has failed to deliver a functioning track and trace system that would spot local flare ups like these.”

Matt Hancock tweeted about the new rules at 9.16pm

Manchester mayor Andy Burnham defended the sudden introduction of the new guidelines, saying the virus could move “quickly”.

Speaking on Good Morning Britain today, he said: “The truth of the matter is the pub is a more regulated environment, as is public transport where people are supposed to wear face masks.

“The home is a less regulated.”

Leicester Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby said: “A lot of people are hoping that they can grab a bit of time to go for a summer holiday, and we’re not sure here in Leicester whether that’s going to be permitted or not.”

Last week we told how Blackburn overtook Leicester to become Britain’s coronavirus hotspot after cases doubled in just one week.

Meanwhile in Bournemouth beach, police are today on standby to set up roadblocks to prevent a repeat of chaotic scenes of crowded seasides.

A major incident had been declared at Bournemouth last month as people packed onto the beach, with plans now in place to cope with another potential surge.