BORIS Johnson told Brits tonight they can’t “throw in the sponge” in the fight against coronavirus now “no matter how impatient or fed up” we are with strict rules and restrictions.
The PM gave a stark update flanked by his top boffins Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance – with a series of alarming data slides on how the virus is spreading across the nation.
And he again begged the nation to pull together and follow the rules in order to avoid another wide-spread lockdown.
The PM said only a “collective” effort and willingness to make “sacrifices” for others would bring cases down.
Yet Brits are not being told to stay at home again as “we want to keep the economy moving” and avoid more jobs being lost, he stressed.
He strongly defended his strategy in the face of growing Tory opposition over chaotic local lockdowns and confusing rules.
But he warned that if the cases continued to go the wrong way: “We will not hesitate to take further measures which would be more costly.”
It’s still “too early” to tell if the package of measures announced last week – like the 10pm pub curfew – is having an effect on the cases.
Mr Johnson told Brits tonight: “No matter how impatient we may become, how fed up we may become, we must show collective forbearance, common sense and willingness to make sacrifices for others.”
It came as:
In the face of a Tory rebellion over his coronavirus strategy, Boris said we must stick together “with confidence” with the plan he’s put forward.
He warned of a “huge” loss of life if Brits didn’t follow the rules and gave up on hand-washing and social distancing, but said it would ruin the economy to shut everything down again.
And again he refused to give in to critics who say the nation should “give up” and “let the virus take its course”.
He hit back after days of Tories attacking his handling of the pandemic, saying: “I profoundly disagree and I don’t think its what British people want.
“They don’t want to throw in the sponge, they want to fight and defeat this virus.”
And he stressed that thousands who needed vital NHS treatment wouldn’t be able to get it if the country doesn’t “bear down on the virus now” and crush the second spike.
LOCAL SECOND WAVE
Boris said tonight the second wave may be more localised than the first – which is matched in the latest figures.
He said: “I do think it is possible there is a difference in the way the disease is expressing itself across the country… it may be that this is a more localised phenomenon.”
Stark new graphs showed a huge national divide between the North and South coming clear tonight.
Cases are rocketing in the North East and North West, and are creeping up in London.
However, weekly tests are not going up nearly as fast in the South East and South West.
Chief Scientific adviser Patrick Vallance admitted starkly: “We don’t have this under control at the moment” and that “there is evidence of spread everywhere”.
However, he did admit that the true number of cases at the peak of the March pandemic was probably more likely to be at 100,000 per day – far lower than now.
Chief Medical Officer Mr Whitty said rates of the deadly bug are surging among people in their late teens and early 20s.
But infections in school pupils aren’t spiking, he also revealed.
Professor Whitty said that in younger groups, “the rates are actually really not changing very much”.
“School age children is one of the areas where rates are not going up, and this is true across the country,” he said.
The press conference comes after days of rows over the new coronavirus laws, where grumpy MPs were threatening to rebel because they hadn’t been given a vote on them.
Most of the new laws are passed through Parliament with no votes and sometimes no debate.
Tory rebels had joined forces to demand they get a say in any future measures.
Today the Speaker refused to give the rebels a vote on the new coronavirus laws – but the Government sealed a deal with them to stave off a rebellion.
Sir Lindsay Hoyle gave the Government a slap down for not giving MPs a say on emergency measures to fight the pandemic before they came into force – but said an amendment risks undermining certainty in the law.
He said this afternoon: “I am now looking to the Government to rebuild the trust with this House and not treat it with the contempt that it has shown.”
Later on Matt Hancock revealed a peace deal with Tory rebels which would see them get a vote on new national measures “wherever possible” – which should see most of the MPs back down.
One of the chief rebels, Sir Graham Brady, said the change would “reassure Parliament and, most importantly, the British public” as he admitted he would climb down from a rebellion.
Steve Baker retweeted a message saying: “They’ve wisely extracted concessions out of the Government instead of a symbolic debate.”
The PM’s press conference today comes after he got muddled over the rule of six yesterday – wrongly saying it didn’t apply outside.
He was unable to clearly explain what they were today as he fumbled over whether people could meet outdoors in the North East.
Later he was forced to clarify the rules with a tweet just hours after a chaotic press conference.
It comes after new laws preventing people from mixing between families will come into place in the North East today.
Boris held his top team for a Cabinet meeting this morning ahead of the press conference.