UK tightens restrictions as corona cases rise

23 September, 2020 12:00 AM printer

LONDON: The UK government on Tuesday tightened restrictions to stem a rising tide of coronavirus cases, ordering pubs in England to shut early and abandoning calls for people to return to the workplace to help kickstart the battered economy, reports AFP.

Britain is following Europe in facing a second wave of infection and Prime Minister Boris Johnson said measures were needed now to prevent further, more costly, action later.

“This is the moment we must act,” he told parliament. “We’re acting on the principle that a stitch in time, saves nine.”

Johnson said the measures, which could be in place for up to six months, would be bolstered by greater penalties for infringements, a boosted police presence and military back-up.

“If all our actions fail to bring the R (reproduction rate) below one, then we reserve the right to deploy greater firepower with significantly greater restrictions,” he added.

“Your harmless cough can be someone else’s death knell,” he warned. Government scientists have painted a grim picture of up to 50,000 coronavirus cases a day by mid-October and more than 200 deaths a day a month later if no action is taken.

Johnson, battling sustained criticism for his handling of the outbreak, brushed aside renewed anger from the hospitality sector, which is still trying to get back on its feet.

The chief executive of trade body UKHospitality, Kate Nicholls, said the restrictions were “another crushing blow” for the beleaguered industry.

Pubs, bars and restaurants will have to close early at 10:00 pm (2100 GMT) from Thursday, while face coverings will be made compulsory for staff in retail, as well as in taxis.

From Monday, weddings and receptions will only be allowed a maximum of 15 people, although funerals can still have up to 30 in attendance.

But Johnson’s call for people to work from home again wherever possible comes just months after the government encouraged the opposite.

He also called a halt to the planned phased return of fans to live sporting events in England from October 1.

In the latest sign of the fallout of the coronavirus closure, UK leisure group Whitbread announced it could shed up to 6,000 jobs at its hotel and restaurant chains.

Pub chain Wetherspoons also said 1,000 of its staff at UK airports had been warned that up to 450 jobs were at risk.

Almost 42,000 people who tested positive for Covid-19 have died in Britain—the worst death toll in Europe.

Another 4,368 positive cases were recorded on Monday in levels not seen since early May when the country was still subject to a nationwide stay-at-home order.