UK to outline early pub closing as virus alert level raised

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson reacts as he leaves 10 Downing Street in central London on September 21, 2020. – The UK government on Monday upgraded its coronavirus alert level, as its senior scientific advisor warned that England was on track for about 50,000 coronavirus cases a day by mid-October and a surging death toll unless action is taken immediately. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP)

LONDON, United Kingdom (AFP) — The UK government will on Tuesday announce new measures to curb a concerning rise in coronavirus cases, shutting pubs in England early and recommending a return to working from home where possible.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlines the restrictions to parliament at 1130 GMT, and was due to make a televised address to the nation at 1900 GMT.

Top advisers on Monday warned the country could see up to 50,000 coronavirus cases a day by mid-October, and a month later exceed 200 deaths every day if nothing was done.

Britain’s Covid-19 alert level was raised from level three to four, indicating that “transmission is high or rising exponentially”.

Johnson’s office said late on Monday that English pubs, bars and other hospitality venues will be required to close at 10pm (2100 GMT).

Food and drink outlets will be restricted to table service only. Similar restrictions are already in place across swathes of northern and central England.

Senior minister Michael Gove meanwhile said there was going to be a “shift in emphasis” on official advice about working from home, just months after a call for return to the workplace.

“If it is possible for people to work from home then we would encourage them to do so,” he told Sky News television.

‘United approach’ 

Other measures being considered include the closure of indoor concert venues and another delay to the trial of spectators at professional sports events, the Daily Telegraph reported.

The UK government is responsible for health in England, with the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland setting their own policy.

But Downing Street said it wanted a “united approach” as much as possible, to avoid different measures put in place throughout the outbreak.

The first ministers in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast were attending an emergency contingencies committee on Tuesday morning.

Chief medical officer Chris Whitty said rates of infection were replicating the strong resurgence seen in France and Spain, roughly doubling every seven days.

Britain recorded another 4,368 cases on Monday — levels not seen since early May when the country was still in a stringent lockdown.

Ministers say the country is at “a tipping point” meaning action was needed immediately.

Almost 42,000 people who have tested positive for Covid-19 have died in Britain, the worst death toll in Europe.

A three-month national lockdown was lifted in June and the government has since been trying to kick-start the economy, which was plunged into an unprecedented recession.

The government encouraged the public to frequent pubs and restaurants to get the economy moving, and a return to the workplace, but cases have been rising rapidly.

Johnson last week said Britain was already seeing a second wave — in line with parts of Europe — and new localized restrictions were introduced affecting millions across northwest, northern and central England.

© Agence France-Presse