A couple wearing protective face covers chats on the street in Liverpool city center in north west England on September 18, 2020.
OLI SCARFF | AFP | Getty Images
LONDON – The UK government will outline further restrictive measures for England on Monday, including tougher local lockdowns, to contain a rapid surge in coronavirus infections.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to explain the restrictions first to the House of Commons and then in a televised statement to the public on Monday evening. The country is poised to adopt a "three tier" system that will classify regions according to the severity of their infection rate, based on various restrictions being imposed.
The toughest measures have been imposed in Liverpool, Manchester and other parts of northern England as infection rates have risen since the national lockdown was lifted in the summer. British media reports suggest that pubs, restaurants and gyms in the hardest hit areas could be closed for four weeks as the government scrambles to curb a second wave of infections.
The measures are likely to exacerbate tensions between regional politicians and the national government in London as the local economy comes under additional pressure and thousands of jobs are likely to be affected.
What are the current restrictions?
The new measures add to the existing national restrictions that prohibit groups of more than 6 people from meeting and forcing pubs and restaurants to close at 10pm.
Local lockdowns already exist in some areas of the UK. Residents are only allowed to mingle or meet with other households when they are not outside. Meanwhile, parts of Scotland and Wales have already closed pubs and restaurants, and the latter have also imposed some restrictions on movement.
The UK government has been criticized for the complex rules currently in place, which vary from area to area, and it is hoped that a tiered system will simplify the rules.
Britain at a turning point
The move comes when senior government health advisers warned the UK was at a "turning point". Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, England's assistant chief physician, made a statement on Sunday warning UK lawmakers that the seasons are "against us".
"Unfortunately, as night follows day, the number of deaths will increase over the next few weeks," said Van-Tam.
Another senior government advisor, Peter Hornby, professor of emerging infectious diseases at Oxford University, warned on Sunday that a second national lockdown is possible but should be avoided if possible.
Speaking to the BBC's Andrew Marr show on Sunday, Hornby said health services could be overwhelmed if steps were not taken to slow the spread of the virus. "We have a doubling time (with infections) of around eight to 15 days. So it doesn't take long before these intensive care beds are full and we're in a really difficult situation. I'm afraid it is us." I'm going to have to make some very difficult decisions and act very quickly. "
The UK has reported 606,447 cases of Covid-19 and 42,915 deaths since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins University (JHU). 12,872 new cases were reported on Sunday. Data through October 8th showed the average number of cases within 7 days was 14,391, up from 9,715 on October 1st.