Measures covering the whole of New England that could shut down hospitality companies are being considered by the British government to slow down a sharp increase in coronavirus cases.
A short period of stricter restrictions ̵
Schools and most workplaces would be kept open during these weeks.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has told the BBC that the government is “prepared to do what is required” against Covid-19.
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Speaking to BBC Breakfast, the health secretary said there had been an “acceleration” in the number of coronavirus cases in the last couple of weeks, and the number of people admitted to coronavirus hospitals doubled about every eight days.
He stressed that it was “critical” that people follow social distancing guidelines and local rules for suspension – where they apply.
“If we do all these things, we can avoid having to take serious further action,” he told the program.
At a meeting on Wednesday evening, the government’s scientific advisers and doctors predicted that there would be a significant number of deaths by the end of October if there were no further interventions.
The possible measures being discussed – described by the government as a “circuit break” – include asking certain hospitality companies to close, or limit the opening hours of certain pubs and restaurants across the country.
No final decisions have yet been made on the next course of action.
Labor’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth has said it is “not surprising that national restrictions are back on the table” as Britain’s test system “collapses”.
The virus is of course now doubling every seven to eight days, with more than 3,300 new cases reported on Thursday.
And after being in individual numbers for much of the past six weeks, the daily death toll for humans within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test has increased over 20 in the last three days.
In France and Spain, a rapid increase has led both countries to register more than 10,000 new positive cases a day, more than 20 times higher than in June.
It comes when new restrictions have come into force in the north-east of England and affect almost two million people. The measures prohibit people from meeting other households, and restaurants and pubs must be closed at 22:00 BST.
An announcement of a possible shutdown in the north-west of England is expected from the government later on Friday.
The restrictions for Lancashire, but not Blackpool, are expected to include a similar ban on household mix and a requirement for hospitality companies to close early.
And it is understood that the government has said no to a request from the City Council to close bars and pubs in Leeds at 22:00 BST.
Leeds will hear later if other measures are planned in the city.
The four nations of Great Britain are all responsible for their own restrictions with lock-in, with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland implementing slightly different rules than England.
Options for ministers
During the so-called “power outage”, restrictions could be reintroduced in certain public spaces nationwide for a period of a few weeks, but schools and workplaces would be kept open.
One of the ideas proposed by the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (Sage) is that certain parts of the hospitality sector may be asked to close.
No. 10 is also considering the possibility of limiting the opening hours of pubs and restaurants across the country, which has already happened in some areas.
The health secretary said the government’s current approach was “targeted intervention” and stressed “a national shutdown is the last line of defense”.
“The strategy is to keep the virus down as much as possible while protecting education and the economy,” Hancock added.
“And throw everything at science that eventually is the way we will run out of this.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is perceived as deeply reluctant to order another national shutdown, where everyone would be asked to stay at home and companies to close.
Earlier this week, he described the potential impact of a second national shutdown on the economy as “catastrophic”.
On Thursday morning, Chancellor Rishi Sunak is believed to have issued warnings about the damage to the economy.
And ministers are also concerned about the impact of more restrictions on daily life for those in need of treatment for non-covidine diseases.
It is not yet clear what impact this week’s new rule banning social gatherings for more than six people will have on the increase, and number 10 continues to monitor the data and take scientific advice.
But it seems increasingly likely that the prime minister will tighten national rules again within the next week, our correspondent said.
On Friday, parts of north-east England merged with other areas in the UK to be under local rules for closure.
The measures affect Newcastle, Gateshead, Sunderland, Northumberland, South Tyneside, North Tyneside and the County Durham Council Area.
In addition to the ban on household mixing and early closures of pubs and restaurants, people should also only use public transport for important trips and nursing homes are closed to visitors.
- Read more: Local locking of northeast England begins
There are also local barricades elsewhere in the UK – including Birmingham, Greater Manchester, Caerphilly and the Belfast Council Area.
In other important developments:
A rapid test can correctly diagnose a coronavirus infection within 90 minutes without the need for a specialized laboratory, researchers have said
- Personal protective equipment will be free for nursing homes until next March, as part of a government plan for coronavirus for the NHS England in the winter
- UK retail sales have continued to increase for the fourth month in a row, increased by household and DIY spending, according to official figures
- London’s New Year’s Eve fireworks will not take place this year, London Mayor Sadiq Khan told LBC
- The number of new weekly conditions in Europe has exceeded the number reported during the pandemic’s first peak, warns the head of the World Health Organization in Europe
The figures show that almost two thirds of adults now travel to work again
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