Boris Johnson begs families to stay home and Chris Whitty appears in TV ad as part of new campaign

Boris Johnson last night begged families to stay at home as the Covid death toll hit a grim new record.

He said infections were rising at an alarming rate, despite the lockdown imposed at the start of the week.

And he warned the only way to prevent thousands more deaths was to follow the rules. ‘I know the last year has taken its toll,’ the Prime Minister said. ‘But your compliance is now more vital than ever.

‘Once again, I must urge everyone to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.’

Another 1,325 Covid deaths were reported today – one a minute and more than the peak of 1,224 in the first wave last April.

In other coronavirus news: 

  • London mayor Sadiq Khan declares a major incident in the capital and demands face masks are worn in public places, despite fall in city’s cases;
  • Jonathan Van Tam went for a curry on the same day Boris Johnson told Londoner to avoid restaurants and then claimed the £21.77 meal on the taxpayer;
  • Britain approves Moderna’s Covid vaccine but won’t get any doses until March at the earliest;
  • Fears mount police officers are taking Covid crackdown too far after two friends are fined £400 for driving five miles for a socially-distanced walk;
  • Transport Secretary Grant Shapps warns Covid vaccines might not work against the South African mutant strain of coronavirus… just hours after Pfizer study finds key mutation has no effect on the efficacy of its jab;
  • Coronavirus reached the UK more than 1,000 times in early 2020 with most transmissions traced back to Spain, France and Italy, study finds
  • Elderly residents queue for Covid jabs in sign Britain’s vaccine roll out may be picking up the pace;
  • Stanley Johnson, the Prime Minister’s father, reveals he will get his second Covid jab today as millions are still waiting for their first.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has issued a plea to families and begged them to stay home to save lives as the UK recorded its highest death toll since the pandemic began today and the NHS launches a new ad campaign fronted by Chris Whitty

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has issued a plea to families and begged them to stay home to save lives as the UK recorded its highest death toll since the pandemic began today and the NHS launches a new ad campaign fronted by Chris Whitty

Everyone in England is being urged to stay at home and 'act like you've got it' as part of a major advertising campaign. including posters (pictured) encouraging the public to control the spread of the virus and protect the NHS and save lives

Everyone in England is being urged to stay at home and ‘act like you’ve got it’ as part of a major advertising campaign. including posters (pictured) encouraging the public to control the spread of the virus and protect the NHS and save lives

A commuter wears a facemask as he sits in a bus shelter with signage promoting "Stay Home, Save Lives" in central London

A commuter wears a facemask as he sits in a bus shelter with signage promoting ‘Stay Home, Save Lives’ in central London

With the virus ‘out of control’ in London, an advertising blitz will run on TV, radio, newspapers and social media carrying shocking images of the severely ill in hospital. Amid calls for even tougher restrictions, ministers are considering making face masks mandatory in busy outdoor locations, such as supermarket queues.

As London Mayor Sadiq Khan declared a major incident, saying the virus was ‘out of control’ and threatening to overwhelm hospitals in the capital:

n Confirmed coronavirus infections hit a record high of 68,053;

n One in every 15 people in the London borough of Barking and Dagenham may have the virus, according to an official survey;

n A new highly infectious variant now makes up 81 per cent of cases in the capital;

n Senior officials warned its virulence meant the current lockdown was likely to be less effective at curbing the virus than the first;

n More hospitals cancelled other treatments, even cancer operations;

n Police were put on standby to drive ambulances in London;

n Constabularies launched a crackdown on lockdown-breakers;

n A study suggested the Pfizer vaccine works against the new strain;

n UK regulators approved a third vaccine but it will not be available until spring;

n Vaccine tsar Kate Bingham vowed the target to inoculate the 13million most vulnerable by February 15 would be met.

The hard-hitting ad campaign was launched on TV last night, fronted by Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty. He said that while vaccines provided ‘clear hope for the future… for now we must all stay at home’.

Professor Whitty, who is the most trusted government figure on Covid, said the rapid spread of the virus was putting ‘many people at risk of serious disease and is placing a lot of pressure on our NHS’.

Dramatic images will carry the stark message: ‘Coronavirus. If you go out, you can spread it. People will die.’

No 10 fears that Mr Johnson’s stay-at-home order is being flouted – a suspicion backed up by figures from Transport for London.

Passenger levels on the Underground were running at 18 per cent yesterday, compared with just 5 per cent last April.

Bus use is at 30 per cent of capacity, compared with around 18 per cent in the first lockdown.

And traffic levels on main roads in the capital were at 76 per cent of normal compared with 30-40 per cent nine months ago.

The major incident declared by Mr Khan yesterday is a procedure previously invoked following the Grenfell Tower disaster and major terrorist attacks.

The mayor called for the closure of places of worship and for face masks to be worn routinely outside the home. Downing Street sources said there were ‘no more new lockdown measures on the way’.

But the Mail understands that Health Secretary Matt Hancock and other ministers have been examining the case to extend the use of masks.

Mr Khan said the situation in the capital was dire, with an estimated one in every 50 Londoners infected. ‘It’s like being in a theatre of war,’ he said. ‘Unless we reduce the spread, the NHS will run out of beds.’

City Hall said Covid cases in the capital had exceeded 1,000 per 100,000 and there were 35 per cent more hospital admissions with the virus than last April.

The London Ambulance Service is taking up to 8,000 emergency calls a day and at one east London hospital patients were apparently waiting 24 hours for a bed after arriving at A&E.

NHS London said a record 977 patients were admitted to hospitals over 24 hours.

The virus is also spreading rapidly outside the capital. Six out of ten hospitals in England are now reporting more Covid patients than in the first wave – a situation doctors say is ‘cataclysmic’.

Fewer than 500 were in hospital at the start of September but yesterday the figure stood at 28,246. That is an increase of more than 11,000 in a fortnight.

There are also mounting fears about the knock-on effects on wider public health.

Experts expect there to be thousands of deaths as a result of disruption to cancer surgery in this wave, with some patients having vital operations cancelled even while they were heading to hospital.

Campaign group Catch up with Cancer: ‘If you have got Covid you can have a bed, but if you’ve got cancer you can’t have an operation. These cancer patients are dying at home and will be for the next five years.’

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