Britain’s health secretary has shifted London into the second-highest COVID-19 alert level amid a rise in cases.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the House of Commons that the government acted because infection rates are rising rapidly in the capital and swift action was necessary to control the virus.
“Turning to other areas of the country currently in the medium level where rates are rising fast, first in London, infection rates are on a steep upward path, with the number of cases doubling every 10 days, Hancock told parliament.
“We know from the first peak that the infection can spread fast and put huge pressures on the NHS. So we must act now to prevent the need for tougher measures later on.”
Essex and Elmbridge are also moving into local alert level high along with Barrow-in-Furness, York, North East Derbyshire, Erewash and Chesterfield, Hancock told Parliament.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled the new three-tiered alert system on Monday.
The plan sets out progressively stricter measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, based on local infection rates, and put regions into three risk groups: moderate, high and very high.
The new system comes three weeks after the Conservative government’s last nationwide programme, which banned gatherings of more than six people and required pubs and restaurants to close at 10 pm.
“The central change is that people cannot now meet other households socially indoors. This applies in any setting at home or in a restaurant or in any other venue,” said Hancock.
“The rule of six still applies in any outdoor setting. And although you may continue to travel to open venues, you should reduce the number of journeys where possible. Now, I know that these measures are not easy, but I also know that they are vital.”
The move comes as millions of people in northern England are waiting to find out whether they will be placed under the government’s tightest COVID-19 restrictions, which the city of Liverpool already faces.
Europe is currently battling a second wave of the coronavirus with infection and death rates increasing, and countries including Germany, France, Russia and the Czech Republic introducing new restrictions to stem the spread of the virus.