British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced new lockdown measures in England to contain the spread of coronavirus following a sharp increase in new cases.
The prime minister said he does not believe another national lockdown would be the “right course” in combating the pandemic. Instead a new, three-tiered lockdown system will be rolled out, categorised under medium, high and very high.
“We must act to save lives,” Johnson told parliament, adding that he understood the frustrations of those angry about the “repressions of liberty”.
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Areas in the country falling under the medium alert level will continue to follow the rule of six and 10:00 pm hospitality closing time.
The high alert level adds a ban to household mixing indoors including support bubbles.
“In these areas, the rule of six will continue to apply outdoors, where it is harder for the virus to spread in public spaces as well as private gardens,” Johnson told Parliament.
The very high alert level will apply where transmission rates are rising most rapidly and where the NHS could soon be under “unbearable pressure” without further restrictions.
“In these areas, the government will set a baseline of prohibiting social mixing indoors and in private gardens, and I am sorry to say, closing pubs and bars,” the prime minister told MP’s.
Johnson said the government would work with local leaders on additional measures which should be taken, warning this could lead to further restrictions on the hospitality, leisure, entertainment or personal care sectors.
“But retail, schools and universities will remain open,” he stressed.
From Wednesday, the Liverpool city region will be moved to the very high alert level, Johnson said, after agreement was reached with local leaders.
Gyms, leisure centres, betting shops, adult gaming centres and casinos there will close. In addition, Nottinghamshire, east and west Cheshire, and a small area of the High Peak will also move into that tier, after a rise in cases in those areas.
But as millions of people across the United Kingdom grapple with restrictions, the hospitality sector says it is being brought to its knees by the government.
Some pub owners are contemplating legal action over the move to close pubs, saying Johnson had not produced the evidence to explain why they were being targeted.
Coronavirus infections are on the rise again across the UK, with northwest and northeast England seeing the biggest surges. Health officials say the freshest data showed infections were rising across the north of England and in some more southerly areas too.
“If we let the virus rip, then the bleak mathematics dictate that we would suffer not only an intolerable death toll from COVID, but we would put such a huge strain on our NHS with an uncontrolled second spike that our doctors and nurses would simply be unable to devote themselves to other treatments,” Johnson said.