BORIS Johnson is ready to deploy the army in a bid to help over-stretched police forces enforce the UK Government’s new coronavirus rules.

The Prime Minister yesterday told MPs that chief constables would soon be able to “draw on military support where required”.

According to reports, around 500 troops are on standby.

Downing Street last night said this wasn’t about putting tanks on the streets, but about soldiers “backfilling certain duties” to free up officers.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “To further free up the police to have a greater presence on our streets, they will have the option to draw on military support, where required, using tried and tested mechanisms.

“This would involve the military backfilling certain duties, such as office roles and guarding protected sites, so police officers can be out

enforcing the virus response.

“This is not about providing any additional powers to the military, or them replacing the police in enforcement roles, and they will not be handing out fines. It is about freeing up more police officers.”

But it’s unlikely the troops on standby will need to come north of the Border. While the military is reserved, policing and Covid-19 restrictions are all devolved to Holyrood.

And last night, Police Scotland told The National that “no military involvement is necessary” at the moment, nor they added, “do we anticipate it will be needed”.

In his statement to the Commons, Johnson warned that the UK was at a “perilous turning point” in its fight against the pandemic.

He said the number of deaths recorded every day would increase rapidly unless action was taken.

“We always knew that while we might have driven the virus into retreat, the prospect of a second wave was real. I’m sorry to say that, as in Spain and France and many other countries, we’ve reached a perilous turning point,” he said.

Johnson added: “Tens of thousands of daily infections in October would, as night follows day, lead to hundreds of daily deaths in November and those numbers would continue to grow unless we act.”

In a bid to curtail the virus, the Prime Minister announced a raft of new measures for England, that, he said, would likely be in place for until March next year.

“We will spare no effort in developing vaccines, treatments, new forms of mass testing, but unless we palpably make progress we should assume that the restrictions that I have announced will remain in place for perhaps six months,” he said.

“For the time being, this virus is a fact of our lives and I must tell the house and the country that our fight against it will continue.”

The measures include a screeching U-turn on instructions to workers to come back into the office.

Instead, they’ll be asked once more to work from home if possible.

He also announced a ban on indoor team sports, such as five-a-side football, and said plans for a partial return of sports fans to grounds had been “paused”.

And weddings in England will now be limited to a maximum of 15 people. In Scotland it remains a maximum of 20 people.

As in Scotland, bars and restaurants are to provide table service only and masks will be compulsory in

taxis, for retail staff and for hospitality customers, except when sitting down eating or drinking.

The Prime Minister also brought in a curfew, which will force pubs to close their doors at 10pm.

Following discussions between the leaders of the four nations at an emergency Cobra meeting, that measure will be brought in across the whole of UK.

Unlike in Scotland, there will be no ban on households visiting other homes. Nicola Sturgeon brought that tough new measure in after being warned by her scientific advisers that a curfew on pubs “on its own” would “not be sufficient to bring the R number down”.

However, Johnson did warn that further restrictions could soon be brought in for England.

The new measures come after a weekend of robust debate between senior ministers in Johnson’s cabinet.

Labour leader Keir Starmer said he supported the stricter measures, but questioned the Government’s flip-flopping over home working: “One day people were encouraged to work in the office, in fact, more than encouraged – they were openly challenged by the Prime Minister for not doing so.

“Today, they’re told the opposite.”