UK PM halts lockdown easing in England as COVID-19 cases rise

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LONDON, July 31 (PTI): UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday applied brakes on further easing of lockdown measures, due from this weekend, in England, fearing a spike in the COVID-19 cases.

Addressing a briefing at Downing Street in London, Johnson said, “we must squeeze the brake pedal” to keep the virus under control and also announced that face coverings will become mandatory across many more indoor settings, such as cinemas, besides just public transport and shops and supermarkets.

“The prevalence of the virus in the community, in England, is likely to be rising for the first time since May,” said Johnson, referring to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) data.

“That means until August 15 at the earliest casinos, bowling alleys, skating rinks and the remaining close-contact services must remain closed. Indoor performances will not resume, pilots of larger gatherings in sports venues and conference centres will not take place, and wedding receptions of up to 30 people will not be permitted,” he said.

The UK PM insisted that progress against coronavirus continues, with the daily and 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.

According to the ONS, there is now evidence to suggest a slight increase in the number of people in England testing positive on a “nose and throat swab in recent weeks”. This is based on the organisation’s infection survey – taking swabs from people selected at random in homes in England. Last week, the ONS estimated that there were 2,800 new infections each day and that one in 2,000 people – 28,000 in total – were infected in homes in England.

However, Johnson rejected suggestions that the UK had moved too quickly in lifting the lockdown restrictions in the first place.

“The answer lies with all of us following that guidance and doing the right thing. Hands, face, space – get a test,” he said, in reference to the hygiene and social distancing precautions against the deadly virus.

He insisted that localised lockdowns “are working”, as it emerged overnight on Thursday that northern England would be put under stricter lockdown than the rest of England following a local spike in infection rates.

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