Stronger measures to curb the spread of the CCP virus are in place for parts of North East England from Sept. 18 because of the high infection rate in the region.
With hospital admissions in England “doubling every eight days or so,” Health Minister Matt Hancock said he wouldn’t rule out a second nationwide lockdown, although it would be a last resort.
The British government imposed stricter restrictions in Northumberland, North Tyneside, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Gateshead, South Tyneside, Sunderland, and County Durham, affecting 2 million people.
On Friday afternoon, further towns in the North West, Midlands, and West Yorkshire were added to the list, with restrictions to be imposed from Sept. 22.
Residents in these areas are not allowed to socialize with people outside their own households or support bubble, whereas people in some other parts of the country can still gather in groups of up to six.
In all restricted areas except the Midlands and West Yorkshire, hospitality for food and drink is restricted to table service only, and a 10 p.m. curfew applies to leisure and entertainment venues, which can reopen at 5 a.m. the following morning.
Residents are also advised to only use public transport for essential purposes, and to avoid going to live sporting events.
Hancock said the restrictions came after the number of cases in the North East rose to a “concerning level.” After cases started to rise rapidly in areas of the North West, Midlands, and West Yorkshire, he said that local leaders “asked for stronger restrictions to be put in place to protect local people, and we are acting decisively to support them.”
He urged people to “work together and break the chains of transmission.”
“I urge those from affected areas: please, get a test if you are symptomatic, stay at home if you are required to self-isolate, and think: hands, face, space. This is the only way for us to return to a more normal way of life and avoid further restrictions,” he said in a statement.
COVID-19 cases started to rise again in Britain in September, with between 3,000 and 4,000 positive tests recorded daily in the last week. This is still some way behind France, which is seeing more than 10,000 new cases a day.
On Thursday, Britain recorded 21 deaths from the disease, taking the total under the government’s accounting method to 41,705.
Asked by Sky News about the prospect of a second national lockdown next month, Hancock said a lockdown was a last resort but that the government would do whatever it takes to tackle the virus.
“The number of people in hospital is doubling every eight days or so … we will do what it takes to keep people safe,” Hancock said. “We keep these things under review.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday told The Sun that he does not want to “go into some great lockdown again” because the financial consequences will be “disastrous.”
Reuters contributed to this report