Boris Johnson said the government has worked on an alternative plan to get closer to normality
This will be achieved, Johnson said, through mass testing, with millions of tests processed each day
Office workers could be checked in the morning and work as they did pre-pandemic if negative
If all goes well, the PM said, we could be closer to normality by Christmas
Boris Johnson has unveiled an “alternative plan which could allow life to return to closer to normality”, with a hope to get nearer to our old lives by Christmas.
After announcing a ban on more than six people meeting in England, except in certain circumstances, the prime minister said new tests could change how people live.
During his Downing Street press conference on Wednesday, he said the government is aiming to increase its testing capacity to 500,000 a day by the end of October.
“In the near future we want to start using testing to identify people who are negative, who don’t have coronavirus, who are not infectious, so we can allow them to behave in a more normal way in the knowledge they cannot infect anyone else with the virus,” he said.
He said newer tests that are “simple, quick and scalable” are hoped to become available, which if deployed on a “far bigger scale”, to the magnitude of millions a day, could allow people to lead more normal lives, “without the need for social distancing”.
Watch: What are the current UK government guidelines on face coverings within schools?
This could allow office workers who test negative in the morning being able to work how they did before the pandemic, and theatres and sports venues could allow those who don’t test positive to be let in.
A trial with indoor and outdoor audiences will be held in Salford from October, Johnson added, and hopefully then go nationwide.
He said he hoped this project – dubbed “Moonshot” in Whitehall – will become widespread by spring 2021, but if “everything comes together” it could be possible to “have life much closer to normal before Christmas”.
However, chief medical officer for England Chris Whitty warned that the “period between now and spring is going to be difficult” because people will gather together over winter, and Johnson admitted he cannot be “100% sure that we can deliver that in its entirety”.
From Monday, the law will change to limit gatherings to up to six people in England – the so-called rule of six.
They will be allowed if the total number of people in a household or a support bubble is greater than six, or where the gathering is for work or education.
Weddings, funerals and organised team sports will also be excluded.
Also announced was a requirement for social venues to take customers’ contact details and retain them for 21 days.
Border Force will “step up enforcement efforts at the border to ensure arrivals are complying with the quarantine rules”, the PM added.
The tightening up has come after coronavirus cases began to spike in the UK, with 2,460 new cases reported on Tuesday, 2,948 on Monday and 2,988 on Sunday.
Health secretary Matt Hancock and Whitty said the rise has been driven by infections in young people.
“Which is, you can’t gather in groups of more than six except for schools, work, those exceptional life events, and it’s super-simple,” he said.
Breaches of the law could lead to a £100 fine for the first offence.
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