Britain rolls out new measures to combat second wave of COVID-19 pandemic

Scientists warn new cases could reach 50,000 per day by October

As several countries around the world begin to ease restriction and lift lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the United Kingdom on the other hand is announcing new restriction as second wave of the virus is currently fast spreading. Daniel Abel takes a look on how the new rules are affecting the country.

In view of the fast-spreading second wave of the deadly COVID-19 virus British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday announced new restrictions meant to last over the next six months.

While disclosing the new measures to lawmakers, the prime minsiter said, “We’ve reached a perilous turning point.”

“No one underestimates the challenges the new measures will pose to many individuals and businesses, but we must take further action to control the resurgence in cases of the virus and protect the National Health Service (NHS).”

Currently, the UK has the highest official COVID-19 death toll in Europe with 41,825 confirmed dead and over 403,551, cases recorded, and according to Johnson, the new regulation is aimed at tackling the spread of the virus after scientific warnings that deaths could soar without urgent action and government scientists warned that cases could reach 50,000 new cases per day by mid-October.

He said the new rules were “carefully judged to achieve the maximum reduction in the fast-spreading number while causing the minimum damage to lives and livelihoods.”

According to Johnson, under the new rules, face masks must be worn in public, taxis, private hire vehicles, and also by retail staff while at work. Also, pubs, bars and restaurants in England will close by 10:00 pm every night and wedding ceremonies as well as receptions must not have more than 15 people from Monday.

The new regulations further noted that plans of fans to return to sports venues will not go ahead as previously planned and the exemptions to the rule of six will be reduced, invariably banning indoor team sports such as indoor five-a-side football matches. Also, office workers who can work from home have been urged to do so.

Boris Johnson noted that fines of £200 has been put in place for anyone who breaks the laws on gatherings or finds to wear mask for a first offender and would increase with more deviation. Businesses that break the rules could be fined up to 10,000 pounds ($12,800).

He further warned that “significantly greater restrictions” could be imposed if deemed necessary, stating “similar regulations” would be taken across the UK after he met with the leaders of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Speaking in the House of Commons, the PM told lawmakers, “We always knew that while we might have driven the virus into retreat, the prospect of a second wave was real. I’m sorry to say that, like Spain and France and many other countries, we’ve reached a perilous turning point.”

Asked in parliament why Britain’s figures were worse than Germany and Italy, Johnson said: “There is an important difference between our country and many other countries around the world and that is our country is a freedom-loving country … It is very difficult to ask the British population uniformly to obey guidelines in the way that is necessary.”

However he declared that it was, “by no means a return to the full lockdown of March”, with no general instructions to stay at home. Businesses, schools, colleges and universities will remain open.

Reacting, the Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey warned that the “very unfortunate” escalation of COVID-19 cases threatened the economic outlook and said the central bank was looking hard at how it could support the economy further, Reuters reported.

Opposition leader Keir Starmer also urged the government not to end a furlough scheme at the end of October, accusing it of losing control of the coronavirus crisis.

Similarly, the British government disclosed that it does not intend to include the Premier League and English Football League in a bailout fund for sport and instead called on the richest football league in the world to help the rest of English football’s professional pyramid.

Leaders from across more than 100 British sports and governing bodies, including the Premier League, had previously told Boris Johnson that sports could face a potential “lost generation” without an emergency recovery fund.

The Confederation of British Industry, which represents business, said it was “desperately urgent” to announce a targeted replacement for the furlough scheme, BBC said.

“It has saved thousands and thousands of jobs but there is a cliff-edge looming with today’s announcement that is more urgent than ever,” said director general Dame Carolyn Fairbairn.

Some business owners said the new rules would make life even harder. Marc Gough, who runs a crockery and glassware business in the wedding and events sector, said the cut to the limit for weddings to 15 was “heart-breaking”.

“I can’t earn a living because you’re restricting me to weddings of 15 people,” Mr Gough told BBC Radio 5 live, adding that the turnover of his business had fallen from £750,000 to £20,000.

“To walk into that warehouse, to put a smile on my face to the staff that I have left, to the clients that I deal with constantly, the brides, it’s truly heart-breaking,” he said.

Meanwhile, the United States surpassed the grim milestone of 200,000 COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday, becoming the highest number recorded by any nation. The US, on a weekly average, according to a Reuters tally, is losing about 800 lives each day to the virus.

During the early months of the pandemic, 200,000 deaths were regarded by many as the maximum number of lives likely to be lost in the United States to the virus.

“The idea of 200,000 deaths is really very sobering and in some respects stunning,” Dr Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious diseases expert, told CNN.

Fauci said that it was not inevitable that the United States would fall into another dire situation with coronavirus cases surging during cold weather months, but that he was worried about parts of the country where public health measures were not being implemented.

On Monday, US President Donald Trump said he had done a ‘phenomenal job’ on the pandemic that has infected nearly 6.9 million Americans. The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield recently told Congress that a face mask would provide more guaranteed protection than a vaccine, which would only be broadly available by “late second quarter, third quarter 2021.”

Biden, who often wears a mask and has said he would require masks nationwide, has warned against a rushed release of a vaccine, saying, “Let me be clear, I trust vaccines, I trust scientists, but I don’t trust Donald Trump.”

The University of Washington’s health institute is forecasting coronavirus fatalities reaching 378,000 by the end of 2020, with the daily death toll skyrocketing to 3,000 per day in December.

Canada is also facing a surge in COVID-19 cases that risks ballooning to higher levels than were seen during the first wave of the pandemic in the spring if people do not take stringent precautions, health officials said on Monday.

According to Reuters, Canada is at a crossroads and individual action to reduce contact rates will decide its path. Taking into account a worst-case scenario outlined by the agency, cases could rise more than 1,000 per day for the next 10 days to 155,795 by October 2, with the death toll hitting 9,300. On Monday, Canada had reported 145,415 total cases and 9,228 deaths.

Canada’s chief public health officer, Theresa Tam, outlined three scenarios, with the most favorable being a “slow burn” that involves active case detection and tracing, and for individuals to take all the necessary precautions.

Russia President Vladimir Putin told the UN General Assembly on Tuesday that the World Health Organization should be strengthened to coordinate the global response to the coronavirus pandemic and proposed a high-level conference on vaccine cooperation.

“We are proposing to hold an online high-level conference shortly for countries interested in cooperation in the development of anti-coronavirus vaccines,” Putin said.

“We are ready to share experience and continue cooperating with all states and international entities, including in supplying the Russian vaccine which has proved reliable, safe, and effective, to other countries,” he said.

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