LONDON — London will be placed into the U.K. government’s “high” alert category for COVID-19 restrictions from midnight on Friday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Thursday.
“Tier two” measures include a ban on households mixing indoors, while journeys on public transport will be discouraged. This is one step down from the top tier of restrictions which forces bars and pubs not serving food to close.
Amid soaring infection rates and rising hospital admissions — particularly in the north of England and the capital — the U.K. government is facing sustained criticism.
The government’s own scientific advisers and the opposition Labour Party have called for a “circuit-breaker” full lockdown for two or three weeks to bring infections back under control, a measure that enjoys widespread public support.
Others in Johnson’s own Tory Party oppose restrictions on individual freedoms and argue the economic and health implications a second full lockdown would bring do not justify tighter restrictions. Local leaders in many parts of the country argue businesses need more government support to survive a winter lockdown.
Hancock said infection rates in London were on a “steep upward path” and that the government had to “act now.”
“Delayed action means more deaths from COVID, it means more non-COVID deaths and it means more economic pain later because the virus comes down slower than it goes up,” Hancock said.
Other areas moving into the high risk category include Essex in south-east England, the city of York, Barrow-in-Furness in north-west England, and parts of Derbyshire in the East Midlands.
Hancock added that discussions were ongoing with local leaders in parts of the north of England, including Greater Manchester, where restrictions are expected to be tightened from the “high” to “very high” level.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who spoke to Health Secretary Matt Hancock this morning, said the coronavirus was now “spreading rapidly in every corner of our city” with some boroughs already seeing more than 100 infections per 100,000 people. “It’s my expectation that the government will today announce that London will shortly be moving into tier two, or the high alert level of restrictions,” he told the London Assembly.
Earlier, London MPs were told by junior Health Minister Helen Whately that the capital was set to move to the new restrictions from midnight on Friday, an MP on the call said, although the decision has yet to be confirmed by the government, with a statement expected later on Thursday morning.