Restrictions to remain in much of England after lockdown ends
LONDON— Most people in England will continue to face tight restrictions on socializing and business after a nationwide lockdown ends next week, with pubs and restaurants ordered to remain shut in areas that are home to more than 20million people.
The government announced details on Thursday of three-level regional measures that will take effect Dec. 2. Only three remote and island areas with a total population of 700,000 are in the lowest tier, where pubs and restaurants can open almost as normal and members of different households can meet up indoors.
More than half of England’s 56 million people, including London’s 8.6 million residents, are in the middle level, where most shops, restaurants and leisure businesses can open— with some restrictions— and audiences can return in limited numbers to theaters and sports stadiums.
An additional 23million people in a huge chunk of central and northern England, including the large cities of Birmingham and Manchester, along with the large southeastern county of Kent, will be placed in the top tier, where pubs and restaurants can only serve takeout and delivery, and leisure venues such as cinemas and bowling alleys must stay closed. Shops, gyms, hairdressers and beauty parlors will be able to open across the country, however.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said “tough measures” would be needed until spring, when it’s hoped a combination of vaccines andmass testing can help life return to normal.
The government imposed a four-week lockdown in England early this month to curb an autumn surge in coronavirus cases, with travel restricted and nonessential businesses closed. The government’s statistics office says the infection rate appears to have leveled off, but Health Secretary Matt Hancock said “we must remain vigilant.”
Themeasures must be approved by Parliament, which is due to vote next week. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own set of restrictions.
Britain has had Europe’s worst coronavirus
outbreak, with more than 57,000 confirmed deaths.
COVID-19 in Africa might not start until the second quarter of next year, the continent’s top public health official said Thursday, adding that it will be “extremely dangerous” if more developed parts of the world vaccinate themselves and then restrict travel to people with proof of a vaccination.
The director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengasong, told reporters that “I have seen how Africa is neglected when drugs are available” in the past. And he warned that “it’s clear the second wave [of infections] is here on the continent” of 1.3 billion people. Africa last week surpassed 2 million confirmed coronavirus infections.
The Africa CDC has been discussing vaccine options with Russia, China and others as it seeks not to be left behind in the race to obtain doses.
Oxford University on Wednesday acknowledged amanufacturing error that is raising questions about preliminary results of their experimental COVID-19 vaccine.
A statement describing the error came days after the company and the university described the shots as “highly effective” and made no mention of why some study participants didn’t receive as much vaccine in the first of two shots as expected.
In a surprise, the group of volunteers that got a lower dose seemed to be much better protected than the volunteers who
got two full doses. In the low-dose group, AstraZeneca said, the vaccine appeared to be 90% effective. In the group that got two full doses, the vaccine appeared to be 62% effective. Combined, the drugmakers said the vaccine appeared to be 70% effective. But the way in which the results were arrived at and reported by the companies has led to pointed questions from experts.
In a statement Wednesday, Oxford University said some of the vials used in the trial didn’t have the right concentration of vaccine so some volunteers got a half dose. The university said that it discussed the problem with regulators, and agreed to complete the late stage trial with two groups.
The manufacturing problem has been corrected, according to the statement.