UK: London, other areas moving into Tier 2 coronavirus lockdown
This weekend, Londoners will face stricter COVID-19 restrictions as authorities have decided to move into a Tier 2 lockdown to stem the spread of the coronavirus. The stricter restrictions will also be extended to Essex, York, Chesterfield, among other regions in the United Kingdom. Under these high-alert measures, households will be banned from mixing indoors, including in pubs and restaurants. Here are more details.
British Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced in the Parliament on Thursday that COVID-19 restrictions for certain areas will now move into Tier 2 or "high risk" level in the government's new three-tiered alert system. The areas that will witness stricter curbs this weekend include London, Essex, Elmbridge in Surrey, Barrow in Furness (Cumbria), York, North East Derbyshire, Chesterfield, and Erewash (Derbyshire).
Speaking in the House of Commons, Hancock said that "things will get worse before they get better." He told MPs, "Now, I know that these measures are not easy but I also know that they are vital." "Responding to this unprecedented pandemic requires difficult choices, some of the most difficult choices any government has to make in peacetime," he added.
These restrictions will keep businesses open "in name only," said Labour shadow minister and Ilford North MP Wes Streeting. Streeting said, "There are lots of restaurants, pubs, bars, and other venues whose doors will be open, but customers will just not be walking through the door." Under these restrictions, establishments will not be eligible for government support, unlike premises that have been ordered shut.
Labour mayor Sadiq Khan told London's City Hall there was "simply no other option." He said, "Nobody wants to see more restrictions but this is deemed to be necessary in order to protect Londoners." Robert Halfon, the Conservative MP for Harlow in Essex, welcomed the new curbs, but said he would call on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to prevent businesses from suffering financially.
Notably, Khan also supported Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer's calls for a temporary national "circuit-breaker" to limit virus transmission. Rupa Huq, Labour MP for Ealing Central and Acton in west London, also tweeted saying that she was "unconvinced this tinkering is really enough," referring to the latest curbs. She also called for a circuit-breaker to stop the disease "spreading like wildfire."
According to the Johns Hopkins University's tracker, the UK has reported a total of over 6.5 lakh COVID-19 cases. Over 43,245 patients have died after contracting the virus in the country. The nation is witnessing a second spike in infections after a lull in June-July.