COVID-19: Britain’s Prime Minister, Postpones Lockdown Easing

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In order to keep a steady response in containing the deadly coronavirus in the United Kingdom, the further easing of lockdown restrictions due to come in this weekend – has been postponed for at least two weeks, amid concerns over an increase in coronavirus cases.

Casinos and bowling alleys will remain shut, with Boris Johnson saying it was time to “squeeze the brake pedal”.

Wedding receptions of up to 30 people were meant to be allowed as part of the changes but cannot yet happen. Face coverings will be mandatory in more indoor settings, such as cinemas. People attending places of worship will also be required to wear face coverings, in a change that will be applied from next weekend. But planned changes to guidance for those who have been shielding during the pandemic, advice for employers, will still go ahead.

Mr. Johnson made the comments during a special Downing Street briefing, where he was joined by England’s chief medical officer, Prof Chris Whitty.

Prof Whitty warned that it might not be possible to ease the lockdown any further, explaining that the “idea that we can open up everything and keep the virus under control” is wrong. Asked whether it was safe for England’s schools to open fully to all pupils in the autumn, he said it was a “difficult balancing act” but “we have probably reached or neared the limits of what we can do in terms of opening up society”.

The rethink follows new restrictions for people in parts of northern England, after a spike in virus cases. The prime minister said progress against coronavirus continues, with the daily and the weekly number of deaths falling, but warned that some European countries are “struggling” to control it. The UK must be ready to “react”, he said.

A further 120 people have died with the virus in the UK, according to the latest figures, and 880 new cases have been recorded. Highlighting the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), Mr. Johnson added: “The prevalence of the virus in the community, in England, is likely to be rising for the first time since May.”

He said that the reopening of society had always been “conditional” on “continued progress against the virus”, but with “numbers creeping up” it was time to “squeeze that brake pedal in order to keep the virus under control”.

He urged people to “follow the rules, wash our hands, cover our faces, keep our distance – and get a test if we have symptoms”, summing the advice up with a new slogan: “Hands, face, space, get a test”.

Cases in England are increasing for the first time since May. Data from the Office for National Statistics show there are around 4,200 new infections a day compared with 2,800 a week ago.

This is not a return to the height of the epidemic in March, but it is telling. Every restriction we ease increases the ability of the coronavirus to spread, and the government’s scientific advisers have always warned there was not much wiggle room to lift restrictions and still suppress it. The uptick in infections is a warning we may have already passed the limit of lifting lockdown. That is why Boris Johnson has delayed some of the planned liftings of restrictions in England and face masks will become a more frequent sight.

The big question remains around schools. If the current rules are leading to an increase in cases,u can we open schools as well? If we open schools will we have to close something else?

It is worth noting all this is happening in July and scientists suspect the virus will spread even more easily in the winter months. Mr. Johnson said the planned reopening of “higher risk settings” on 1 August would now be delayed for at least a fortnight.

This means that the following will not be able to take place until 15 August, at the earliest:

*. The reopening of casinos, bowling alleys, skating rinks and remaining close contact services

  • Larger gatherings in sports venues and conference centers and expansion of wedding receptions to allow up to 30 people
  • Beauty treatments that involve the face, such as an eyelash, eyebrow, and threading treatments

The British Beauty Council said the changes were “very disappointing for a sector that has already seen delay after delay in reopening”.

The prime minister said the rules for face coverings would become enforceable in law from 8 August.

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