British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Friday the next phase of the UK’s coronavirus plans, as the country looks towards winter and the risks of a potential second wave.
Johnson said that infections were low and stable, and that local lockdowns were now the way forward.
“I’m pleased to report that we’ve continued to make steady progress in our collective effort to beat the coronavirus. For three weeks now the number of new cases identified through testing, each day has been below 1,000,” he said.
From tomorrow, local councils will have the authority to cancel events if needs be, and government ministers will also be given powers to enforce local lockdowns.
“Ministers will be able to close whole sectors, or types of premises in an area; introduce local stay at home orders, prevent people entering or leaving defined areas, reduce the maximum size of gatherings beyond national rules or restrict transport systems, serving local areas,” he said.
Johnson also announced further funding for the NHS ahead of winter.
“We will be rolling out, the biggest ever flu vaccination program in the history of the UK. I can confirm that we’re providing an additional £3 billion [$3.7 billion] of funding for the NHS in England to get ready for winter,” he said.
“It’s possible that the virus will be more virulent in the winter months. And it’s certain that the NHS will face the usual annual winter pressures,” he warned.
Nevertheless, he said he wanted to get back to “something closer to normal” but that this depended on the public “staying alert and acting responsibly.”
“We’re planning for the worst,” he said. “But we should hope for the best, looking ahead with optimism.”
The prime minister then announced a raft of decisions loosening coronavirus restrictions in the country.
Anyone can now use public transport, and from Aug. 1, employers will be able to ask their workers back to the office so as it is COVID-secure, changing the current advice that is to only go to work if you cannot do so from home.
“From Aug. 1, we will update our advice on going to work,” Johnson said.
“We’re going to give employers more discretion and ask them to make decisions about how their staff can work safely. That could mean continuing to work from home which is one way of working safely and which has worked for many employers and employees. Or it could mean making workplaces safe.”
Also from Aug. 1, most leisure activities, including bowling, skating rinks, casinos, beauticians, and outdoor performances can begin. Wedding receptions with up to 30 people will be allowed, but night clubs will continue to be closed.
From October, audiences will be allowed in stadiums and concerts, and conferences will be allowed to reopen.
Johnson said he hoped to return the country to “normality” from November.
“It is my strong and sincere hope that we will be able to review the outstanding restrictions and allow a more significant return to normality from November at the earliest possibly in time for Christmas,” he said.
Meanwhile, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced he wanted an urgent review into the death toll data from Public Health England, after researchers revealed that a “statistical anomaly” meant “no one can recover from COVID-19 in England.”
What this means is that, currently, if a person has previously been diagnosed with COVID-19 but dies of unrelated causes, their death is still counted as a coronavirus death.
There are now concerns that the UK-wide coronavirus death toll is inaccurate, and it currently stands at 45,119.
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