LONDON — U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday called on Britons to stick to the rules in order to avoid tougher coronavirus restrictions, as the country grapples with a swift upsurge in the number of reported coronavirus cases.
"The best way forwards to protect the NHS, save lives, to keep our children in school and the economy moving is to follow the rules wherever we live," Johnson said.
"I don't want to go back to a national lockdown where the overall guidance is stay at home," Johnson said, responding to a question sent in from a member of the public. "That is not what we are saying, we want to keep the economy moving, we want to keep young people, pupils in education. But, the only way we can do that is if we all follow the guidance and depress the virus."
The prime minister, who has recently had to apologize after muddling the government's own coronavirus rules, was speaking alongside Chris Whitty, the government's chief medical officer, and Patrick Vallance, its chief scientific advisor, during a televised press conference.
It comes shortly after the country recorded its highest number of reported Covid-19 infections since the pandemic began.
The U.K. reported an additional 7,143 cases of the coronavirus on Tuesday, surpassing the number of new cases reported in late April and early May when strict nationwide lockdown measures were in place, although there are now more daily Covid-19 tests being carried out than in the spring.
The U.K. also recorded 71 further coronavirus-related deaths on Tuesday. It was the highest number of Covid-19 fatalities reported in the U.K. since July 1. The country has the worst official death toll in Europe, and the fifth-highest number of coronavirus fatalities worldwide.
On Wednesday, the U.K. recorded 7,108 new cases of the coronavirus and an additional 71 related deaths, the same number of fatalities reported on Tuesday.
Downing Street had previously announced that household mixing in the northeast of England would be banned from Wednesday evening, following a sharp rise in the number of confirmed cases in the region.
The government also advised residents in the region to avoid mixing with people outside their household in pubs and restaurants.
Johnson, who became particularly ill himself when he contracted Covid-19 earlier this year, has called on the public to "summon the discipline and resolve" necessary to follow the latest rollout of coronavirus rules.
In a televised broadcast to the nation on September 23, the prime minister outlined new restrictions that could be in place for up to six months, saying "there have been too many breaches."
In England, the restrictions included stricter rules on face coverings, and the number of people allowed to attend weddings was halved. Pubs, restaurants, and other hospitality venues were also told to close by 10 p.m., while the fines for breaking the new rules were increased to £200 ($256) on the first offense.
Hospitality venues will also have to close early in Wales and Scotland, while Northern Ireland had already banned households mixing indoors.
Tens of millions of people in the U.K. are now subject to local restrictions brought in to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.
Yet, as pressure mounts on Johnson to impose a so-called "circuit-breaker" lockdown of two weeks to bring the virus under control, prominent lawmakers in the ruling Conservative Party have spoken out against the potential for additional measures.
Johnson has suggested the government "must reserve the right to go further" with tougher regulations if the number of Covid-19 cases and related deaths continues to rise.