October 31, 2020
 
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UK PM Expected to Enact New Lockdown   10/31 13:18

   

   LONDON (AP) -- British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to hold a news 
conference alongside his top scientific advisers Saturday amid anticipation he 
will announce a new national lockdown for England to stem a resurgence of the 
coronavirus that has pushed the U..K.'s total confirmed cases past 1 million.

   Scientists warned COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths in the U.K. could 
soon surpass the levels seen at the outbreak's spring peak. Johnson's office 
said the late-afternoon press conference would follow a Cabinet meeting to 
discuss "the government's coronavirus response."

   The government said early Saturday that no final decision on new lockdown 
measures had been made, but Johnson was under growing pressure to act quickly.

   London School of Hygiene epidemiologist John Edmunds, a member of the 
government's scientific advisory group, said Saturday that cases were running 
"significantly above" a reasonable worst-case scenario drawn up by modelers.

   "It is really unthinkable now, unfortunately, that we don't count our deaths 
in tens of thousands from this wave," Edmunds told the BBC. "The issue is, is 
that going to be low tens of thousands if we take radical action now or is that 
going to be the high tens of thousands if we don't?"

   Official figures announced Saturday recorded 21,915 new cases confirmed in 
the last 24 hours, bringing Britain's total since the start of the pandemic to 
1,011,660. Britain's official death toll from the coronavirus is 46,555, the 
highest in Europe, with 326 new deaths announced Saturday.

   The United States, India, Brazil, Russia, France, Spain, Argentina and 
Colombia have also recorded more than 1 million cases, according to a tally by 
Johns Hopkins University. Scientists say the true number of cases is much 
higher because not everyone with the virus is tested.

   Johnson has introduced a system of local restrictions for England based on 
levels of infection. But scientists say it has not been enough to tame a surge 
of COVID-19 cases, and Britain is likely to join other European countries such 
as France, Germany and Belgium in imposing a second lockdown.

   Any new lockdown would likely see non-essential businesses close and people 
told to stay mostly at home, though schools would remain open.

   The measures would apply to England. Other parts of the U.K. set their own 
public health measures, with Wales and Northern Ireland already effectively in 
lockdown and Scotland under a set of tough regional restrictions.

   Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Saturday that for now people in 
Scotland should not travel to or from England, "except for essential purposes."

   Lucy Powell, business spokeswoman for the opposition Labour Party, accused 
the government of "dithering" and said the country was now facing a longer 
lockdown than if Johnson had acted sooner.

   But Johnson is also under pressure from some members of his Conservative 
Party, who oppose tighter restrictions because of the economic damage they 
would cause. Any new lockdown will need Parliament's approval.

   Owners of businesses that have struggled to get back on their feet since the 
first lockdown was eased said the impact of new closures would be devastating.

   A government program that has paid the wages of millions of furloughed 
employees during the pandemic ends Saturday, replaced by less-generous measures 
that are likely to bring a surge in unemployment.

   "People have borrowed up to the hilt and spent money in order to get 
COVID-secure," said Kate Nicholls of pub and restaurant industry group 
Hospitality U.K. "There is no spare capacity in the tank to be able to fund a 
lockdown, even for three to four weeks."

   The U.K. is recording more than 20,000 new coronavirus infections a day, and 
government statisticians say the true figure is far higher. The Office for 
National Statistics estimated Friday that 1 in 100 people in England, well over 
half a million, had the virus in the week to Oct. 23.

   Jeremy Farrar, director of medical research charity the Wellcome Trust and a 
government adviser, urged swift action to avoid many more deaths.

 
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