Britain was put under tough new lockdown measures Tuesday because of an alarming second wave of the coronavirus — with the nation’s beloved pubs forced to close early and the military put on standby.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the House of Commons that the stringent new measures were needed because the nation had “reached a perilous turning point” soon after relaxing earlier lockdowns.
Confirmed infection rates had “almost quadrupled,” and hospitalizations from the contagion “more than doubled” in the last fortnight, Johnson said — noting the pandemic is likely to spread more in colder weather.
“This is the moment we must act,” he told parliament, admitting the new rules will likely “remain in place for perhaps six months.”
“For the time being, this virus is a fact of our lives and I must tell the House and the country that our fight against it will continue,” he said.
“We are taking decisive and appropriate steps to balance saving lives with protecting jobs and livelihoods,” he said.
Johnson ordered all pubs, bars and restaurants to close at 10 p.m. from Thursday, with only table service allowed, saying he was “sorry this will hurt many businesses just getting back on their feet.”
He insisted it was needed, however, because “the virus spreads more later in the night when more alcohol has been consumed.”
Johnson also halted the planned return of spectators to sports venues, banned indoor team sports and halved the numbers allowed to attend weddings from 30 to 15.
He also stressed the rules “will be enforced by tighter penalties” — with even first-time offenders caught not wearing masks against rules facing fines of more than $250.
Those failing to self-isolate, meanwhile, face fines of more than $12,500, he said.
If infection rates fail to drop, “then we reserve the right to deploy greater firepower with significantly greater restrictions,” Johnson added — saying that the “option to draw military support where required” to back up police enforcing the rules.
Still, he insisted it was not the “full lockdown” seen in March, with schools and universities staying open, and stores also operating with safety measures. Office workers were encouraged to work from home, however.
The prime minister also insisted the nation was better equipped to deal with the second wave.
The extra measures come after government advisers said new cases could reach 50,000 per day by mid-October.
The United Kingdom already has the biggest official COVID-19 death toll in Europe — 41,877 on Tuesday morning — while it is borrowing record amounts to pump emergency money through the damaged economy.
Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey warned that the “very unfortunate” escalation of COVID-19 cases threatened the economic outlook and said the central bank was looking hard at how it could support the economy further.
With Post Wires