UK ban on gatherings of more than 6 people may last at least until Christmas
- The new UK ban on large social gatherings will be in place until at least mid-December, officials say.
- The move raises concerns that the virus will last beyond Christmas if it is not brought under control.
- Professor Whitty, the UK's chief medical officer, said cases were now rising consistently across the country, and fastest among young people, particularly those ages between 17 and 21.
- Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that new data showing a rapid increase in new infections showed that 'we must act' and said that 'everyone, at all times, should limit social contact as much as possible and minimise interaction with other households.'
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Boris Johnson's ban on large social gatherings will be in place until at least mid-December, government officials have indicated, raising concerns that the virus will last beyond Christmas if it is not brought under control,
Boris Johnson on Tuesday announced it would ban social gatherings of more than 6, in a bid to contain what health officials say is an alarming rise in COVID-19 infections across the country.
Johnson, along with the UK's Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty and Chief Science Adviser Patrick Vallance, held a press conference on Wednesday, urging people to practice social distancing from other households wherever possible.
Professor Whitty said that cases were now rising consistently across the country, and fastest among young people, particularly those ages between 17 and 21.
He refused to put a date on when the restrictions would be lifted. However, he said that it would be "very unlikely to be over in just two or three weeks," adding that "people should not see this as a short term thing."
However, a senior government official speaking on Wednesday on the condition of anonymity said that the measures will be in place for at least three months, and could be in place for longer if the spread of the virus is not slowed.
Prime Minister Johnson suggested back in July that all existing social distancing measures could be lifted with a return to some form of "normality" by Christmas.
However, Johnson conceded on Wednesday that new data showing a rapid increase in new infections showed that "we must act" and said that "everyone, at all times, should limit social contact as much as possible and minimise interaction with other households."
"You should keep your distance from anyone you don't live with," he added.
The move raises questions about other parts of the government's current coronavirus strategy, which include encouraging people to use public transport and return to offices, despite concerns that such settings could help to spread the virus.
Restaurants, hotels, pubs, schools, and universities will still remain open, Johnson said, insisting that they would only ever be closed again as a last resort.
"These figures are not another national lockdown. The whole point of them is to avoid another national lockdown," Johnson said.
The rise in cases comes as the government struggles to keep up with public demand for coronavirus tests. The NHS chief in charge of testing said that delays — which have seen people seeking tests directed to health centres hundreds of miles away — had been caused by bottle-necks in laboratories which process the tests.
Matt Hancock, the health minister, instead suggested the system was "excellent" and blamed the public for seeking tests in instances where they were "ineligible."
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