UK has ‘reached reopening limits’
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.
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.