UK to announce three-tier lockdown alert in coronavirus hotspots

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson to shutter restaurants and pubs in England as Britain reaches tipping point

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is to issue new coronavirus restrictions that would force the closure of pubs, restaurants and gyms in England’s worst-hit areas.

Mr Johnson was expected to put the country under a three-tier system, with areas on medium, high and very high alert for infection.

Large parts of northern England were expected to fall under a very high alert level.

Liverpool, one of the worst-affected cities in Europe, recorded 600 cases per 100,000 people in the week ending October 6. The average for English towns and cities was 74.

Rules in Liverpool, which could include the closure of some hospitality and leisure venues and a request to people to avoid travelling into or out of local hotspots, will be subject to a review every four weeks, reports said.

Member of Parliament Esther McVey, a former Conservative minister who represents the nearby constituency of Tatton in Cheshire, asked Mr Johnson not to impose more restrictions.

“Please let us not lock down further – it is not working,” she said.

“All it is doing is causing more pain and damage, destroying livelihoods and creating untold damage and poverty.”

Liverpool Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram, a member of the opposition Labour Party, also spoke out against more restrictions.

“No deal has been agreed,” he said.

The prime minister will announce the restrictions in parliament after chairing a meeting of the Cabinet’s emergencies committee on Monday.

He will then appear in a televised Downing Street press conference with Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty.

The announcement of a simplified system with Mr Sunak and Mr Whitty could help Mr Johnson avoid the kind of error that resulted in him explaining the guidelines incorrectly last month.

If a business is closed because of third-tier restrictions, the government will pay two thirds of each employee’s salary up to a maximum of £2,100 a month, according to The Telegraph.

For tier two, members of individual households will not be allowed to mix indoors, while tier one will be similar to the rules already in place.

The announcement came after a spike in coronavirus cases across the UK, resulting in a general tightening of regulations and stricter measures, including a ban on household visits.

The risk of coronavirus spreading is heightened in pubs, restaurants and nightclubs, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said on Monday.

“The purpose of these measures is to get the virus under control,” he told Sky News.

“The point of moving to this tiered system is so that in those most highly affected areas, we have measures in place to control the virus.”

He said he hoped the virus would be under control by Christmas or earlier.

“Of course, it is very challenging for people,” he said. “The measures we are taking are having a bad impact on health, they are having a bad impact on the economy but ultimately it is better to do that than to allow the virus to get out of control.”

Northern Ireland is also weighing up a circuit breaker lockdown to curb the second wave of coronavirus.

“This is a critical juncture,” a Downing Street spokesman said.

“Our primary focus has always been to protect lives and livelihoods while controlling the spread of the virus and these measures will help achieve that aim.”

In anticipation of more curbs, the government on Friday laid out more support for workers in areas hit by local lockdowns, with Mr Sunak pledging to pay two-thirds of the wages of employees in companies forced to close.

Economists said that move will only help to limit an expected surge in unemployment this winter amid fears new restrictions will choke a sluggish recovery.

There will also be a public data briefing at Downing Street led by Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van Tam, who on Saturday said Britain had reached a tipping point similar to one before a countrywide lockdown in March.

The virus has killed nearly 43,000 people in Britain, according to Worldometers figures, and health officials were fearful of another wave this winter.

A poll from Ipsos MORI on Sunday showed the public largely supported more restrictions, with seven in 10 Britons backing local lockdowns in areas where cases of coronavirus were on the rise.

Mr Johnson’s announcement was scheduled as record case numbers across Europe prompted renewed restrictions.

Italy’s government was reviewing additional measures. France introduced tighter curbs in some of its cities, while the Czech government on Monday will decide on further regulations.

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