In a press conference this morning (Friday 17 July), the Prime Minister said coronavirus could now be controlled through “targeted, local action”.
He said: “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 will enable local authorities to act more quickly in response to outbreaks, where speed is paramount.”
Leicester was placed into a local lockdown after a substantial number of new Covid-19 cases, meaning pubs in the East Midlands city could not reopen when their counterparts elsewhere did from Saturday 4 July. Some of the strict measures will be eased next week but pubs must remain closed.
However, the Prime Minister said action taken by councils to crack down on outbreaks would “not always be sufficient” and that he would publish draft regulations outlining how central Government “can intervene more effectively at a local level.”
He added: “Where justified by the evidence, ministers will be able 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.”
Local measures would work hand-in-hand with the NHS Test & Trace system, which is presently being aided by pubs collecting customer and staff contact details, Johnson said.
Return to normality
The Prime Minister spoke of his hopes that the UK could return to "significant" normality by the Christmas period, suggesting that November could be when the one-metre social distancing guidance was relaxed.
From 1 August, indoor performances could be allowed to take place with socially-distanced live audiences, “subject to the success of pilots” however venues that accommodate close-contact gatherings such as nightclubs will remain closed this summer.
Ministers have adopted a new messaging on working from home in recent weeks and guidance on going to work will be updated on 1 August.
Johnson said businesses will be given “more discretion on bringing employees back to offices as long as they are Covid secure”.
UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls tweeted that this switch on messaging could be useful in fuelling recovery for businesses in city-centres.