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Political Overview

22nd September 2020, 3:40 pm

Political overview – 22nd September 2020

UK Government

Prime Minister’s statement – House of Commons

Comments of relevance

• The Prime Minister began by outlining how the UK has reached a “perilous turning
point” in its fight against coronavirus, stating that the country must act to avoid an
exponential growth in the number of cases.

• Referencing the rising number of cases, hospital admissions and deaths across France
and Spain, the PM warned that the UK’s increasing number of new daily cases was
not solely down to an increase in testing, before going on to state that as few as 8%
of the British population are currently estimated to have coronavirus antibodies.
Johnson noted that the growing number of cases amongst 20-29-year olds was
starting to spread into more “vulnerable age groups”.

• The PM emphasised the need to curb the number of daily infections, stressing that
with winter approaching – if the new measures are not adhered to – stricter limitations
on daily life may need to be taken.

• Despite warning of the drastic need to halt the rising number of cases, Johnson
stressed that the newly announced measures were “in no way a return to the
lockdown of March”, noting that educational institutions, shops, businesses and
hospitality venues are still allowed to remain open.

• The PM introduced the following new measures, all of which affect England only:

1) Office workers who can work from home should do so. Workers in industries
such as retail and construction will still be allowed to go to work if they are
unable to work from home.
2) From Thursday (24th September), all pubs, bars, and restaurants will only be
allowed to operate table service, and all venues must close by 10pm. To help
with police enforcement, establishments must close by this time, and not
merely call last orders.
3) The requirement to wear face coverings will extend to all retail employees, as
well as those traveling in taxis, and customers working in indoor hospitality
venues.
4) In the retail, leisure, and tourism sectors, Covid secure guidance will become
a legal obligation, with businesses being threated with fines and possible
forced closure if they do not follow the rules.
5) From Monday (28th September), a maximum of 15 people will be able to
attend wedding receptions, with up to 30 people still being allowed to attend
funerals. The “rule of six” will also be extended to all indoor adult sporting
activities.
6) Conferencing centres and sporting venues will not be able to commence
with the planned reintroduction of attendees from 1st October, with the PM
stressing that the Chancellor and the Culture Secretary were currently working
at pace to support these businesses.

• The PM went on to stress that the new measures will only work if people comply,
before outlining how stricter fines will be put in place to help police enforce the new
rules. Fines for first time offenders breaking the rule of six will rise to £200, whilst
businesses will also face tougher penalties for not adhering to covid secure measures.

• The advice for those who were shielding at the start of the pandemic remains the
same – the reintroduction of shielding is not needed for the moment, yet the PM
stressed that the government “reserves the right to use greater fire power with
significantly greater restrictions”.

• Jonson warned that if things do not improve, the new restrictions could be in place
for as long as six months, going on to stress to members of the House that the virus “is
a fact of our lives”.

• Concluding, the PM warned that “it is tempting to hope the threat has faded and
seek comfort in the belief you have avoided the virus so far so are somehow immune.
But that type of complacency could be our undoing.”

• The Leader of the Opposition Sir Kier Starmer voiced his support for the new measures,
but criticised the government’s handling of the pandemic, calling for the PM to
extend the furlough scheme – a call echoed by SNP Westminster Leader Ian
Blackford. The PM defended the government’s approach as “balanced and
proportionate”, and stressed that the government would continue to “put its arms
around the country”.

Contact us

Alan Boyd-Hall
Head of Public Affairs
Email: alan.boyd-hall@grayling.com
@GraylingUK & @Grayling_PA
grayling.com

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