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Boris Johnson announced that from tomorrow, local authorities will have new powers in their areas. They will be able to close specific premises, shut public outdoor spaces, and cancel events. These powers are intended to enable local authorities to act more quickly in response to outbreaks, where speed is paramount.
Regulations will set out how central government can intervene more effectively at a local level, enabling ministers to close whole sectors or types of premises in an area, introduce local “stay at home” orders, prevent people entering or leaving defined areas, reduce the maximum size of gatherings beyond national rules, or restrict transport systems serving local areas.
The NHS Test and Trace capacity has been significantly scaled up, with over 200,000 tests daily currently being carried out and plans to increase this to at least half a million by the end of October, as demand for testing will increase in winter months with seasonal illnesses resulting in Covid-like symptoms. Other steps will also be taken to prepare the NHS for the challenges expected during the winter.
Having set out the Government’s contingency planning, the Prime Minister outlined the conditional timetable for lifting the remaining lockdown restrictions. He stressed that the timetable will only proceed if it can be done without risking a second spike of the virus:
Indoor gyms, pools and other sports facilities will reopen.
Nightclubs and soft play areas remain closed for now – although this will be kept under review.
Schools, nurseries and colleges will be open for all children and young people on a full-time basis, as planned.
Universities are also working to reopen as fully as possible.
The Government intends to bring back audiences in stadia and to allow conferences and other business events to recommence – changes must be done in a Covid Secure way, subject to the successful outcome of pilots.
Throughout this period, the Government will look to allow more close contact between friends and family when possible.
The PM concluded by saying
“It is my strong and sincere hope that we will be able to review the outstanding restrictions and allow a more significant return to normality from November at the earliest – possibly in time for Christmas.
“At all times, we will continue to work with the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to support and care for those at risk, wherever they live in the UK.
“… some will say this plan is too optimistic, that the risks are too great and that we won’t overcome the virus in time.
“…, if they are right in saying that, and we cannot exclude that they are, let me reassure them, and reassure you: that we will not hesitate at any stage to put on the brakes.
“From May 11 onwards, this plan has been conditional, and it remains conditional.”
The Government Guidance 'Closing certain businesses and venues in England' has been updated following the PM's announcements.