Today's Paper Latest Coronavirus Cooking Families Core values App Listen Story ideas iPad Weather Newsletters Obits Puzzles Archive
ADVERTISEMENT
story.lead_photo.caption British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tries out a North Yorkshire Police Rural Taskforce electric bike during a visit to North Yorkshire Police headquarters in Northallerton, England, on Thursday, July 30, 2020. (AP / Charlotte Graham )

LONDON -- British Prime Minister Boris Johnson put some of the country's next steps out of lockdown on hold Friday with just a few hours' notice, saying the number of new coronavirus cases was on the rise for the first time since May.

The government's top medical adviser warned that it was impossible to fully reopen society without the virus running out of control.

Johnson said statistics showed that the prevalence of covid-19 in the community is likely increasing, with an estimated 4,900 new infections every day, up from 2,000 a day at the end of June. Britain has Europe's highest confirmed death toll in the pandemic, more than 46,000, behind only the United States and Brazil.

"We just can't afford to ignore this evidence," Johnson said at a news conference. "With those numbers creeping up, our assessment is that we should now squeeze [the] brake pedal in order to keep the virus under control."

[CORONAVIRUS: Click here for our complete coverage » arkansasonline.com/coronavirus]

Johnson called off plans to allow venues, including casinos, bowling alleys and skating rinks, to open beginning today. The return of wedding receptions was also delayed, along with plans to allow some fans back into sports stadiums and limited audiences into theaters.

He said the measures will be reviewed after two weeks.

The prime minister said a rule requiring face coverings to be worn in shops and on public transit will be extended to museums, galleries, cinemas and places of worship beginning on Aug. 8.

One change that was not put on hold: Beginning today, U.K. businesses can ask employees to return to workplaces as long as they have been made "covid secure."

[Video not showing up above? Click here to watch » https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y34TII2UqiA]

Scientists advising the government say they are no longer confident that the R figure, which measures how many people each infected person passes the disease to, is below 1 in England. A number above 1 means the virus will spread exponentially.

England's chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, said the country had reached "the outer edge" of its ability to return to normal without risking a new wave of the disease.

"We have to be realistic about this," he said at the news conference. "The idea that we can open up everything and keep the virus under control is clearly wrong.

"If we do pull back, then we should be able to hold the line."

Britain imposed a nationwide lockdown in March -- closing schools and businesses and barring all but essential travel -- and has been lifting it in stages since June.

"We must keep our discipline. We must be focused and we cannot be complacent," he said.

On Thursday, the government once again imposed restrictions on social life across a swath of northern England because of a surge in cases, barring households from visiting one another.

Under the new restrictions, people from different households in Greater Manchester, England's second-largest metropolitan area, have been asked not to meet indoors. The order also applies to the surrounding areas of Lancashire and West Yorkshire counties, affecting more than 4 million people in all.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said while it's not the "sort of decision that anybody would want to take," the government had no choice because data showed the coronavirus was being spread primarily between households.

Opposition politicians supported the move but criticized the government for announcing the restrictions in a tweet from Hancock late Thursday, just two hours before they took effect at midnight.

Labor Party business spokeswoman Lucy Powell said the "bolt out of the blue" approach was "not the way to build confidence and to take people with you and maximize compliance with these steps."

The affected region has a large Muslim population, and the restrictions coincide with the Eid al-Adha holiday, where many people would normally gather in one another's homes.

The Muslim Council of Britain's secretary-general, Harun Khan, sharply criticized the way the announcement was made, saying that for Muslims "it is like being told they cannot visit family and friends for Christmas on Christmas Eve itself."

The restrictions on northern England are the second batch of local restrictions imposed in Britain to try to curb a second wave of the virus, following a stricter local lockdown in the central England city of Leicester.

Britain's pandemic death toll is five times higher than Germany's, a country with a larger population. Johnson has said there will be an independent inquiry into why the U.K. has had such a high coronavirus death toll.

Muslim men arrive at the Bradford Grand Mosque for Eid al-Adha prayers, in Bradford, West Yorkshire, England, Friday July 31, 2020. Britain’s health secretary has defended a decision to reimpose restrictions on social life in a swath of northern England, saying it was important to keep ahead of the spread of COVID-19. The affected region has a large Muslim population, and the restrictions come prior to the Eid al-Adha holiday starting on Friday. (Danny Lawson/PA via AP)
Muslim men arrive at the Bradford Grand Mosque for Eid al-Adha prayers, in Bradford, West Yorkshire, England, Friday July 31, 2020. Britain’s health secretary has defended a decision to reimpose restrictions on social life in a swath of northern England, saying it was important to keep ahead of the spread of COVID-19. The affected region has a large Muslim population, and the restrictions come prior to the Eid al-Adha holiday starting on Friday. (Danny Lawson/PA via AP)
A security guard outside a Covid-19 testing centre, in Bradford, West Yorkshire, England, Friday July 31, 2020. Britain’s health secretary has defended a decision to reimpose restrictions on social life in a swath of northern England, saying it was important to keep ahead of the spread of COVID-19. Under the new restrictions, people from different households in Greater Manchester, England’s second largest metropolitan area, have been asked to not meet indoors. The same orders applies to the surrounding areas of Lancashire and West Yorkshire counties. (Danny Lawson/PA via AP)
A security guard outside a Covid-19 testing centre, in Bradford, West Yorkshire, England, Friday July 31, 2020. Britain’s health secretary has defended a decision to reimpose restrictions on social life in a swath of northern England, saying it was important to keep ahead of the spread of COVID-19. Under the new restrictions, people from different households in Greater Manchester, England’s second largest metropolitan area, have been asked to not meet indoors. The same orders applies to the surrounding areas of Lancashire and West Yorkshire counties. (Danny Lawson/PA via AP)
Men wearing face masks sit inside Manchester Central Mosque, in Manchester, northern England, after having their temperatures checked at the entrance to try stop the spread of coronavirus, as Muslims worldwide mark the start of the Eid al-Adha holiday, Friday, July 31, 2020. The British government on Thursday night announced new rules on gatherings in some parts of Northern England, including Manchester, that people there should not mix with other households in private homes or gardens in response to an increase trend in the number of cases of coronavirus cases per 100,000 people. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
Men wearing face masks sit inside Manchester Central Mosque, in Manchester, northern England, after having their temperatures checked at the entrance to try stop the spread of coronavirus, as Muslims worldwide mark the start of the Eid al-Adha holiday, Friday, July 31, 2020. The British government on Thursday night announced new rules on gatherings in some parts of Northern England, including Manchester, that people there should not mix with other households in private homes or gardens in response to an increase trend in the number of cases of coronavirus cases per 100,000 people. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
Hammad Khan, top right, the Chair of the Executive Committee at Manchester Central Mosque addresses the congregants partly about the new coronavirus safety measures, in Manchester, northern England, after having their temperatures checked at the entrance to try stop the spread of coronavirus, as Muslims worldwide mark the start of the Eid al-Adha holiday, Friday, July 31, 2020. The British government on Thursday night announced new rules on gatherings in some parts of Northern England, including Manchester, that people there should not mix with other households in private homes or gardens in response to an increase trend in the number of cases of coronavirus cases per 100,000 people. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
Hammad Khan, top right, the Chair of the Executive Committee at Manchester Central Mosque addresses the congregants partly about the new coronavirus safety measures, in Manchester, northern England, after having their temperatures checked at the entrance to try stop the spread of coronavirus, as Muslims worldwide mark the start of the Eid al-Adha holiday, Friday, July 31, 2020. The British government on Thursday night announced new rules on gatherings in some parts of Northern England, including Manchester, that people there should not mix with other households in private homes or gardens in response to an increase trend in the number of cases of coronavirus cases per 100,000 people. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
A Muslim man uses hand sanitizer at the Bradford Grand Mosque as Muslims gathered for Eid al-Adha prayers, in Bradford, West Yorkshire, England, Friday July 31, 2020. Britain’s health secretary has defended a decision to reimpose restrictions on social life in a swath of northern England, saying it was important to keep ahead of the spread of COVID-19. The affected region has a large Muslim population, and the restrictions come prior to the Eid al-Adha holiday starting on Friday. (Danny Lawson/PA via AP)
A Muslim man uses hand sanitizer at the Bradford Grand Mosque as Muslims gathered for Eid al-Adha prayers, in Bradford, West Yorkshire, England, Friday July 31, 2020. Britain’s health secretary has defended a decision to reimpose restrictions on social life in a swath of northern England, saying it was important to keep ahead of the spread of COVID-19. The affected region has a large Muslim population, and the restrictions come prior to the Eid al-Adha holiday starting on Friday. (Danny Lawson/PA via AP)
Tape is placed to ensure social distancing, at Minhaj-ul-Quran Mosque, at the start of Eid al-Adha, in London, Friday, July 31, 2020. Britain’s health secretary is defending the government’s abrupt re-imposition of restrictions on social life across a swath of northern England. Matt Hancock says it's important to clamp down quickly on new outbreaks of COVID-19. The affected region has a large Muslim population, and the restrictions come prior to the Eid al-Adha holiday starting on Friday. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Tape is placed to ensure social distancing, at Minhaj-ul-Quran Mosque, at the start of Eid al-Adha, in London, Friday, July 31, 2020. Britain’s health secretary is defending the government’s abrupt re-imposition of restrictions on social life across a swath of northern England. Matt Hancock says it's important to clamp down quickly on new outbreaks of COVID-19. The affected region has a large Muslim population, and the restrictions come prior to the Eid al-Adha holiday starting on Friday. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Men wearing face masks pray inside Manchester Central Mosque, in Manchester, northern England, after having their temperatures checked at the entrance to try stop the spread of coronavirus, as Muslims worldwide mark the start of the Eid al-Adha holiday, Friday, July 31, 2020. The British government on Thursday night announced new rules on gatherings in some parts of Northern England, including Manchester, that people there should not mix with other households in private homes or gardens in response to an increase trend in the number of cases of coronavirus cases per 100,000 people. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
Men wearing face masks pray inside Manchester Central Mosque, in Manchester, northern England, after having their temperatures checked at the entrance to try stop the spread of coronavirus, as Muslims worldwide mark the start of the Eid al-Adha holiday, Friday, July 31, 2020. The British government on Thursday night announced new rules on gatherings in some parts of Northern England, including Manchester, that people there should not mix with other households in private homes or gardens in response to an increase trend in the number of cases of coronavirus cases per 100,000 people. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
People wearing face masks have their temperatures checked before being allowed to go into Manchester Central Mosque, to try stop the spread of coronavirus, as Muslims worldwide marked the start of the Eid al-Adha holiday, in Manchester, northern England, Friday, July 31, 2020. The British government on Thursday night announced new rules on gatherings in some parts of Northern England, including Manchester, that people there should not mix with other households in private homes or gardens in response to an increase trend in the number of cases of coronavirus cases per 100,000 people. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
People wearing face masks have their temperatures checked before being allowed to go into Manchester Central Mosque, to try stop the spread of coronavirus, as Muslims worldwide marked the start of the Eid al-Adha holiday, in Manchester, northern England, Friday, July 31, 2020. The British government on Thursday night announced new rules on gatherings in some parts of Northern England, including Manchester, that people there should not mix with other households in private homes or gardens in response to an increase trend in the number of cases of coronavirus cases per 100,000 people. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
People wearing face masks arrive before having their temperatures checked to try stop the spread of coronavirus, before being allowed to go into Manchester Central Mosque, in Manchester, northern England, as Muslims worldwide mark the start of the Eid al-Adha holiday, Friday, July 31, 2020. The British government on Thursday night announced new rules on gatherings in some parts of Northern England, including Manchester, that people there should not mix with other households in private homes or gardens in response to an increase trend in the number of cases of coronavirus cases per 100,000 people. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
People wearing face masks arrive before having their temperatures checked to try stop the spread of coronavirus, before being allowed to go into Manchester Central Mosque, in Manchester, northern England, as Muslims worldwide mark the start of the Eid al-Adha holiday, Friday, July 31, 2020. The British government on Thursday night announced new rules on gatherings in some parts of Northern England, including Manchester, that people there should not mix with other households in private homes or gardens in response to an increase trend in the number of cases of coronavirus cases per 100,000 people. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
People sunbathe in a marked out square in the sand, indicating two meters, on Barry Island beach, in Wales, Friday, July 31, 2020. First Minister for Wales, Mark Drakeford, has announced that from Monday up to 30 people can meet outside while maintaining social distancing in the latest easing of coronavirus measures in Wales. (Ben Birchall/PAvia AP)
People sunbathe in a marked out square in the sand, indicating two meters, on Barry Island beach, in Wales, Friday, July 31, 2020. First Minister for Wales, Mark Drakeford, has announced that from Monday up to 30 people can meet outside while maintaining social distancing in the latest easing of coronavirus measures in Wales. (Ben Birchall/PAvia AP)
ADVERTISEMENT

Sponsor Content

COMMENTS - It looks like you're using Internet Explorer, which isn't compatible with the Democrat-Gazette commenting system. You can join the discussion by using another browser, like Firefox or Google Chrome.
It looks like you're using Microsoft Edge. The Democrat-Gazette commenting system is more compatible with Firefox and Google Chrome.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT