U.K. ‘Striving to Avoid’ Lockdown as Scientists Sound Alarm
(Bloomberg) -- Boris Johnson’s government is sticking with its local plan to tackle coronavirus hot spots rather than impose a national lockdown, amid growing warnings that tougher measures are needed to contain the pandemic.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Friday it would be “desperately unfair” to impose blanket measures when Covid-19 rates vary so much across England, adding that the government is “striving to avoid” a national lockdown. But he didn’t deny reports that it is considering adding a new tougher level of restrictions for the worst-hit areas of the country.
“We do think the situation is serious,” Raab told the BBC. “We’re confident we have got the right measures and framework in place, which is not to have a blanket approach but to target measures -- both restrictions but also financial support -- on the areas where the uptick is the highest.”
In resisting a second national lockdown in England, Johnson is going against the strategy adopted by countries in Europe including France, and also Wales within the U.K., which last week adopted a “firebreak lockdown” until Nov. 9 to try to get the transmission rate down. The prime minister’s own scientific advisers have called for a similar measure for England.
Instead, Johnson has introduced a three-tier approach where regions with the highest infection rates face tougher social-distancing rules, including a ban on household mixing and closing pubs that don’t sell substantial meals. Officials are considering an extra tier that would force restaurants and non-essential shops to close, newspapers including the Guardian reported on Friday.
Nottinghamshire was the latest area to enter the highest tier on Friday, while West Yorkshire will move to the same alert level from Monday. That will take the total number of people in England under the toughest restrictions to just over 11 million, or 19.6% of the population, according to the Press Association.
The U.K. reported 280 new deaths from coronavirus on Thursday, following two days when the total exceeded 300.
In England, infections are doubling every nine days and the reproduction rate of the virus -- a measure of how many people on average are infected by a single carrier -- has risen to 1.6, according to the latest findings from Imperial College London and Ipsos Mori, which is conducting one of the country’s largest studies of the disease.
The number of people who currently have the virus is now above half a million in England, according to figures published on Friday by the Office for National Statistics, which said Covid infections are sharply increasing among secondary school children. The total rate of infections rose to one in 100 in the week through Oct. 23, from 1 in 130, it said.
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