Boris Johnson’s government measure will take effect early Thursday, bringing 78% of England’s territory into category 4 epidemiological alert on the night before the New Year.
The British government announced a extension of containment measures to include multiple regions as of midnight on Wednesday, thereby a total of 44 million people they will fall under category 4 of epidemiological alert.
The measure, which already included 24 million inhabitants in London, parts of the East and South East of England, now adds areas such as Liverpool, Birmingham, Greater Manchester and the Northeast, reaching more than three-quarters (78%) of the English territory, before New Year’s Eve and only a few hours after the Oxford vaccine approval, announced as a great hope to face the pandemic.
Under these rules, non-essential stores and most other businesses are closed to the public, and almost all social gatherings are prohibited.
Meanwhile, another 12 million inhabitants are under alert level 3, which forces pubs and restaurants to close.
In most of the UK the rules had been relaxed to allow families to get together on Christmas Day, which, according to many health officials, could cause an increase in COVID infections.
In his statement to Parliament, Health Secretary Matt Hancock noted that the move was vital to combat a new strain of Covid-19 that is spreading more rapidly. But he rejected calls to go further with the so-called “Level 5”, or to implement a national lockdown.
On Tuesday, the British government reported 53,135 new cases of COVID-19, the highest number since mass testing began in mid-2020, and a sharp rise from 41,385 infections from Monday’s previous record.
“We continue to see record levels of COVID-19 infection across the UK, which is extremely concerning, particularly as our hospitals are the most vulnerable”Said Susan Hopkins, Senior Medical Adviser for Public Health England.
Hopkins added that part of the daily increase in cases reflected the reporting delays due to Christmas, but the numbers were “largely a reflection of a real increase.”
(With information from Reuters)