Wed | Oct 21, 2020

London faces new restrictions as city sees higher coronavirus risk

Published:Thursday | October 15, 2020 | 10:12 AM
People walk down the steps of the main entrance of the Waterloo train station, at which point they are allowed to remove their face coverings, in London, Thursday, October 15, 2020. London Mayor Sadiq Khan says he expects the government will move the UK capital to a higher level of COVID-19 restrictions later Thursday. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

LONDON (AP) — London and seven other areas were shifted into Britain’s second-highest virus alert level on Thursday, as the government sought to slow an exponential rise in infection rates across the country.

The move means millions will be barred from meeting with anyone from outside their households and will be asked to minimise travel.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the House of Commons that he recognised these restrictions are hard on individuals and businesses, but said tough decisions are needed now to keep people safe.

“Coronavirus is deadly and it’s now spreading exponentially in the UK,” Hancock said.

“We must act to prevent more hospitalisations, more deaths and more economic damage.″

Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week introduced a three-tier regional approach to combating the coronavirus pandemic, with each tier bringing in progressively tighter restrictions.

The government is trying to slow rising infection rates and prevent the National Health Service from being swamped with COVID-19 cases this winter while seeking to avoid a national lockdown that would ravage the UK’s struggling economy.

The opposition Labour Party’s spokesman on health issues, Jonathan Ashworth, described the measures as inadequate to stem the exponential growth of the virus.

He reiterated calls for the government to implement the recommendations of its scientific advisers and impose a two- to three-week national lockdown, or “circuit break,″ arguing it could save thousands of lives.

After Johnson on Wednesday refused to rule out such a move, Ashworth asked Thursday what the government’s criteria were for taking such action.

“How many more hospital admissions? How much non-COVID care delayed? Dare I say, how many more deaths?″ Ashworth said.

“Action is needed now.″

Hancock shrugged off the question, saying now was the time to work together.

“That is the best way to defeat this virus,” he said.

Britain already has Europe’s deadliest outbreak, with over 43,200 confirmed virus deaths.

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