UK has ‘reached re­open­ing lim­its’

Sunday Territorian - - WORLD -

BORIS Johnson has post­poned eas­ing the coro­n­avirus lock­down and read­ied the coun­try for an au­tumn with­out see­ing friends or fam­ily.

The Prime Min­is­ter warned on Fri­day of “trade­offs” ahead and de­layed the lift­ing of re­stric­tions in Eng­land for at least two weeks after a surge in the num­ber of COVID-19 cases.

At a Down­ing Street press con­fer­ence after house­holds were banned from meet­ing each other at home in parts of the north­west, Chris Whitty, the chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer for Eng­land, bluntly warned that the coun­try had “reached the lim­its” of re­open­ing.

“If we wish to do more things in the fu­ture we may have to do less of some other things,” he said.

“The idea that we can open up ev­ery­thing, and keep the virus un­der con­trol, is clearly wrong.”

Mr Johnson said the re­turn of pupils was a na­tional pri­or­ity but that in other ar­eas free­doms were “con­di­tional”. Pri­vately, gov­ern­ment sources say that No.10’s strat­egy is to keep schools open, even if that means re­duc­ing the free­dom of house­holds to so­cialise, to al­low work­ers to keep the econ­omy mov­ing.

Mr Johnson also tight­ened the rules on face cov­er­ings, which will be­come com­pul­sory from next Satur­day in mu­se­ums, gal­leries, cin­e­mas and other in­door pub­lic spa­ces where strangers mix.

The lat­est fig­ures from the Of­fice for Na­tional Sta­tis­tics re­veal that new in­fec­tions have dou­bled since the end of June to about 4200 a day.

Mr Johnson said that the gov­ern­ment “can’t af­ford to ig­nore this ev­i­dence” and post­poned for at least two weeks the re­turn of casi­nos, bowl­ing al­leys, skat­ing rinks, in­door the­atres and con­certs.

How­ever, work­ers are still be­ing en­cour­aged back to of­fices from Mon­day and the lift­ing of re­stric­tions on shield­ing will con­tinue.

In other de­vel­op­ments:

• The coun­try’s death toll rose by 120 to 46,119, with con­firmed coro­n­avirus cases in­creas­ing by 880 to 303,181.

• The gov­ern­ment’s sci­en­tific ad­vis­ers said the mil­i­tary should be on standby amid a risk of dis­or­der not seen since the 2011 ri­ots.

• The Prime Min­is­ter was ac­cused of anti-Mus­lim dis­crim­i­na­tion over the tight­en­ing of re­stric­tions in parts of the north­west hours be­fore the start of the Eid al-Adha re­li­gious fes­ti­val.

Down­ing Street is alarmed by the rise in in­fec­tions so soon after the rules were re­laxed on July 4 to al­low two house­holds to meet in­doors. It fears in the au­tumn and win­ter, when peo­ple spend much more time in­doors, in­fec­tions will run out of con­trol dur­ing the busiest pe­riod for the NHS.

Pic­ture: AFP

Metrolink work­ers in Manch­ester in north­west Eng­land wear high-vis jack­ets with a mes­sage urg­ing so­cial dis­tanc­ing amid fears that the coun­try could face a sec­ond wave of the coro­n­avirus.

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