UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday unveiled a new three-tier system of local Covid-19 restrictions in north England as the number of cases and hospital admissions surged beyond those in March, when the first nationwide lockdown was imposed.
The three levels of the new system are: One baseline, minimum restrictions applicable to all of England, fewer than 100 cases per 100,000 population; Two, triggered when a rise in transmission cannot be contained, cases above 100 per 100,000 population; Three, triggered when level two measures have not contained the virus, or when there has been a significant rise in transmission.
There were 13,972 new cases as of Monday evening – nearly three times the daily peaks of April and May – and 50 new deaths. Overall, the number of UK-wide cases touched 617,688, with 42,875 deaths.
Johnson set out the measures in the House of Commons as top government advisers went on television to describe the surge in its various dimensions and announced that emergency hospitals set up earlier this year are being put on stand-by to deal with new admissions.
Johnson said he did not agree with those who recommended another national lockdown, since it would deprive children and students of education, among other social and economic implications. Instead, the three-tier system will be implemented at local levels.
The Liverpool city region has been placed in Tier Three due to high infection rates in recent weeks, while Nottinghamshire and Cheshire are in Tier Two. Pubs, restaurants and other hospitality centres in areas under Tier Three will remain closed.
“I must warn the House the weeks and months ahead will continue to be difficult and will test the mettle of this country,” Johnson told MPs. “I have no doubt at all that together we will succeed.”
Labour leader Keir Starmer said he remained “deeply skeptical” of the new plans announced, adding he was not convinced that Johnson had a strategy to deal with the disease. Public confidence in the government had been eroded, he said.
Three emergency hospitals – called ‘Nightingale’ hospitals – have been asked to stand by in Manchester, Sunderland and Harrogate, ready to admit people with Covid-19 or other conditions to relieve pressure on the National Health Service.
In a briefing described a ‘grim’, government advisers Stephen Powis and Jonathan Van-Tam outlined the scale of new infections, deaths and hospital admissions.
Van-Tam said: “Unfortunately the virus thrives on what we like most, which is human contact…We have increasingly strong evidence about shouting and singing as pressure points on the virus, in terms of making the expulsion of virus-laden particles go further and the transmission therefore to become more intense.”
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