PM Boris halts lockdown ease after new cases; curbs return in England
Curbs were re-imposed in north England on Friday and Prime Minister Boris Johnson hit the brake on further easing lockdown measures from August 1 after new figures showed a surge in new cases, but ministers insisted it did not mean a “return to lockdown”.
Restrictions have been progressively eased in the UK in recent weeks following drop in deaths and cases from the peak in April-May. For example, in April there were more than 3,000 coronavirus patients in mechanical ventilation beds, but the latest figure is 87.
As part of the easing, the government was to allow some cricket matches, casinos, bowling alleys, skating rinks, indoor performances and pilots of large crowds in sports venues and conference centres under Covid-secure conditions from Saturday.
But Johnson announced in a briefing from Downing Street that these will not happen for at least another fortnight. Wedding receptions of up to 30 people will also not be permitted, but ceremonies can continue to take place.
Health officials announced a return of restrictions on people mixing with other households in north England, including the Greater Manchester area, Pendle, Hyndburn, Burnley, Rossendale, Blackburn with Darwen, Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees and Leicester city,
Muslim organisations criticised lack of adequate notice while re-imposing the restrictions before Eid celebrations.
Johnson said: “At every point I have said our plan to reopen society and the economy is conditional – that it relies on continued progress against the virus, and that we would not hesitate to put on the brakes if required”.
“With those numbers creeping up, our assessment is that we should now squeeze that brake pedal in order to keep the virus under control. On Saturday 1 August, you’ll remember, we had hoped to reopen in England a number of higher risk settings that had remained closed”.
“Today, I am afraid we are postponing these changes for at least a fortnight. That means that, until 15 August at the earliest”.
The new figures from the Office for National Statistics showed an increase in the number of people in England testing positive on a nose-and-throat swab in recent weeks.
The figures show that about 1 in 1,500 people in homes in England are infected (roughly 36,000 people in total) with 4,200 new infections each day; the figures are up on last week, when it was estimated there were 2,800 new infections each day and that one in 2,000 people (28,000 total) were infected in homes in England.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said: “We’re constantly looking at the latest data on the spread of coronavirus, and unfortunately we’ve seen an increasing rate of transmission in parts of Northern England”.
“The spread is largely due to households meeting and not abiding to social distancing. So from midnight tonight, people from different households will not be allowed to meet each other indoors in these areas”.
“We take this action with a heavy heart, but we can see increasing rates of coronavirus across Europe and are determined to do whatever is necessary to keep people safe”.