Boris Johnson will on Sunday consider what further steps are needed to fight “a second wave” of coronavirus cases, as he announced fines of up to £10,000 for those who break self-isolation rules.
Sadiq Khan, London mayor, has put the capital on alert for further restrictions, with one-fifth of the UK already living under tighter local controls. But Mr Johnson is weighing tougher measures across the country.
In a sign of the new approach, Mr Johnson said it was vital for everyone to follow the rules. Fines will start at £1,000 for breaches of self-isolation restrictions, rising to £10,000 for repeat offenders.
“So nobody underestimates just how important this is, new regulations will mean you are legally obliged to do so if you have the virus or have been asked to do so by NHS Test and Trace,” he said. “People who choose to ignore the rules will face significant fines.”
“We need to do all we can to control the spread of this virus, to prevent the most vulnerable people from becoming infected, and to protect the NHS and save lives,” he added.
Meanwhile, people on low incomes would be paid a £500 lump sum to self-isolate at home in a “carrot and stick” approach to combating the spread of the virus.
“While most people are doing their absolute level best to comply with the rules, I don’t want to see a situation where people don’t feel they are financially able to self-isolate,” Mr Johnson said.
Anneliese Dodds, shadow chancellor, said: “This payment depends on test and trace working, so it’s vital that the government sorts it out.”
Mr Johnson and Rishi Sunak, chancellor, agreed last week that they would do everything possible to keep businesses and schools open in the next phase of the virus. Mr Johnson also told MPs a second national lockdown would be “a disaster”.
Government scientific advisers have called for a two-week “circuit breaker” of tough new national measures in England, possibly around the half-term school holidays in late October, or earlier.
Mr Johnson and his advisers are looking at less draconian measures, including more restrictions at a local or national level that would limit the country’s social life.
They could include rules that are already being implemented in parts of Britain under “local lockdown”, such as a limit on households mixing and the forced closure of pubs and other hospitality venues at 10pm.
Mr Johnson is awaiting evidence on whether the so-called “rule of six”, introduced last Monday, is helping to halt the spread of the disease. But government officials said scientific advisers were “extremely pessimistic” about the next few months.
Mr Khan said on Friday: “Londoners should know that I am extremely concerned by the latest evidence I’ve seen today from public health experts about the accelerating speed at which Covid-19 is now spreading here in London. This is made worse by the uncertainty caused by the lack of testing capacity in the capital.
“It is increasingly likely that, in London, additional measures will soon be required to slow the spread of the virus. We will be considering some of the measures which have already been imposed in other parts of the UK.”