LONDON: England will end a nationwide COVID-19 lockdown on December 2 and move to tighter multi-tier regional restrictions than before, with more areas facing severe constraints to prevent the virus from reigniting, said Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office said.
Johnson ordered England a month-long lockdown in early November after infections and deaths have started to increase again, angering businesses and some of its own political parties over the economic consequences.
A second wave of infections has started to flatten out, official data shows, but science advisers are expected to warn on Monday that previous regional restrictions had not gone far enough and that tougher measures are needed to prevent another national lockdown.
“The Prime Minister and its science advisers are convinced the virus is still present – and without regional restrictions, it could quickly get out of hand again before vaccines and mass testing have had an effect, ”a spokesperson said.
“This would jeopardize the progress made by the country, and risk once again an intolerable pressure on the NHS (National Health Service).”
Britain suffered the worst toll in Europe and the deepest economic contraction of any G7 nation, prompting strong criticism of Johnson’s handling of the pandemic.
Before the last lockdown, England had been placed on three levels, with the toughest measures imposed in the north of England, where movement was restricted and pubs were forced to close unless they sold substantial meals.
Johnson’s office said the Prime Minister would establish a new COVID winter plan on Monday, with more areas placed under the higher restrictions of the tiered system.
He will discuss it with his cabinet of senior ministers on Sunday and present it to parliament on Monday. The plan will also include details of interactions over Christmas.
Ministers will announce which areas will be placed in which tier on Thursday, with lawmakers in a position to vote on the system before it goes into effect. The levels will be reviewed.
The move is likely to meet fierce resistance from some lawmakers who argue the country cannot afford to shut down shops and hospitality again after unemployment and debt soared and economic output plummeted. 20% in the second trimester.
The government has argued that the virus will overwhelm hospitals and cripple the economy if left unchecked.
The opposition Labor Party said a package of support would be needed for any business to close.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are also subject to varying levels of restrictions, set by their local governments.