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UK to outline early pub closing as virus alert level raised

Phil Hazlewood, Joe Jackson, Jitendra Joshi - Agence France-Presse
UK to outline early pub closing as virus alert level raised
Customers eat sunday lunches at tables outside a restaurant in Soho, in London on September 20, 2020 as the British government consider fresh nationwide restrictions after an rise in cases of the novel coronavirus. The government this week tightened restrictions on socialising because of a surge in coronavirus cases, and imposed local lockdowns across swathes of the country.
AFP / DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS

LONDON, United Kingdom — The UK government will on Tuesday announce new measures to curb rising coronavirus cases across England, hours after upgrading the virus alert level with top advisers warning of a surging death toll within two months without immediate action.

Under new rules to come into force on Thursday, English pubs, bars and other hospitality venues will be required to close at 2100 GMT while food and drink outlets will be restricted to table service only.

"We know this won't be easy, but we must take further action to control the resurgence in cases of the virus," a Downing Street spokesperson said.

Similar restrictions are already in place across swathes of northern and central England.

Devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are expected to unveil their own nationwide rules imminently.

The ramped-up response follows warnings on Monday that the country could see up to 50,000 cases a day by mid-October, and a month later exceed 200 deaths every day.

Chief medical officer Chris Whitty said rates of infection were replicating the strong resurgence seen in France and Spain, roughly doubling every seven days.

"We are seeing a rate of increase across the great majority of the country," he said, urging the public to respect stricter guidelines on social distancing," he said.

"This is not someone else's problem. It's all of our problem."

The government's Joint Biosecurity Centre later changed its Covid-19 alert level from three to four to reflect the increase in cases.

Level three states that the epidemic is in general circulation while level four reflects that "transmission is high or rising exponentially".

'Great concern'

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will chair a meeting of Britain's COBR emergencies committee Tuesday morning ahead of making a statement to parliament.

He will also address the nation on live television at around 1900 GMT to detail how the restrictions will help flatten the upward curve in cases going into the winter months when other respiratory infections are typically high.

Following widely shared weekend pictures of young revellers out in force in British cities, Johnson called the rising infection rates "a cause for great concern". 

The country recorded another 4,368 cases on Monday, levels not seen since early May when the country was still in a stringent lockdown.  

"The virus is spreading. We are at a tipping point," Health Secretary Matt Hancock told parliament, adding: "We must all play our part in stopping the spread."

Almost 42,000 people who have tested positive for Covid-19 have died in Britain, the worst death toll from the pandemic in Europe, despite the months-long shutdown that plunged the country into unprecedented recession. 

After a summer lull, when the government urged the public to frequent pubs and restaurants to get the economy moving, cases have been rising rapidly.

Johnson last week said Britain was already seeing a second wave — in line with parts of Europe — and new localised restrictions were introduced affecting millions across northwest, northern and central England.

People in England who refuse to self-isolate to stop the spread of coronavirus could face fines of up to £10,000 ($13,000) under tough new regulations.

From September 28, people will also be legally obliged to self-isolate if they test positive or are told to by the National Health Service (NHS) tracing programme.

United approach?

The UK government in London controls health policy for England but the sector is a devolved issue for the administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

That has led to differing approaches to tackling the virus, including for quarantine for visitors from overseas. 

Johnson's office said he had calls with Sturgeon and her counterparts in Cardiff and Belfast and they would all attend Tuesday's emergency meeting.

"They all agreed to act with a united approach, as much as possible, in the days and weeks ahead," a spokesman said.

The government in Cardiff earlier announced that three more areas of south Wales would be placed under local lockdown.

Meanwhile, no two households will be able to mix in Northern Ireland, the province's First Minister Arlene Foster said.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he had met local leaders in the capital Monday and would be asking the government to implement "a new London plan to slow the spread of the virus".

BORIS JOHNSON NOVEL CORONAVIRUS UNITED KINGDOM
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: October 19, 2021 - 6:57pm

Follow this page for updates on a mysterious pneumonia outbreak that has struck dozens of people in China.

October 19, 2021 - 6:57pm

The novel coronavirus has killed at least 4,902,638 people since the outbreak emerged in China in December 2019, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP.

At least 241,039,700 cases of coronavirus have been registered. The vast majority have recovered, though some have continued to experience symptoms weeks or even months later.

The figures are based on daily reports provided by health authorities in each country.

October 16, 2021 - 6:03pm

Russia on Saturday tops 1,000 deaths over 24 hours for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, with the country's jab drive at a standstill and few restrictions in place.

An official government tally showed 1,002 deaths and 33,208 new infections, setting a high for both fatalities and cases for the third day in a row.

The surging outbreak has come with just 31 percent of Russians fully inoculated as of Saturday, according to the Gogov website, which tallies Covid-19 data from the regions. — AFP

October 12, 2021 - 1:53pm

Elated Sydneysiders celebrate the end of almost four months of coronavirus lockdown, putting behind them a period of "blood, sweat and no beers" in Australia's largest city.

Sydney's more than five million residents were subjected to a 106-day lockdown, designed to limit the march of the highly transmissible Delta variant.

With new infections now falling -- New South Wales state recorded 496 cases on Monday -- and more than 70% of over-16s fully vaccinated, the city is dusting off the cobwebs. — AFP

October 11, 2021 - 8:38pm

The Kremlin on Monday described Russia's COVID fatality toll as "high" and the country's vaccination rate as "unacceptably" low, even as it rejected new restrictions so as to protect the economy.

Officials on Monday registered 957 new deaths from Covid-19 over 24 hours, bringing the country's total fatalities to 217,372 -- the highest toll in Europe -- even as authorities are accused of downplaying the severity of Russia's outbreak.

Under a broader definition of deaths linked to the virus, the Rosstat statistics agency said Friday that by the end of August more than 400,000 people in Russia had died with the coronavirus. 

The growing toll from the virus comes as Russia's jab drive has stalled. As of Monday, just over 30 percent of Russians had been fully vaccinated, according to the Gogov website, which tallies COVID-19 data from the regions.

"Yes, indeed, the level of vaccinations we have is small, unacceptably small," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, saying that this is the reason for "such a high mortality rate." -- AFP

October 9, 2021 - 10:45am

A major study shows that cases of depression and anxiety surged by more than a quarter globally during the first year of the pandemic, especially among women and young adults.

In the first worldwide estimate of the mental health impact of COVID-19, researchers estimated that 2020 saw an additional 52 million people suffer from major depressive disorder, and an additional 76 million cases of anxiety.

These represent a 28- and 26-percent increase in the two disorders respectively, according to the study, published in The Lancet medical journal. — AFP 

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