British PM announces 3-tier local lockdown system amid rising coronavirus concerns
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday set out details of a new three-level COVID-19 alert system that will be implemented across England, with the level being decided according to local infection rates.
"We must act to save lives," the prime minister said while speaking at the House of Commons, or the lower house of parliament. "We cannot let the virus rip."
The current set of rules are "complex to understand and enforce", the prime minister said, so the new system is designed to "simplify and standardize" the curbs.
The alert system comprises three levels: "Medium", "High" and "Very High."
"Medium" includes the current national restrictions already in place, including the Rule of Six and the 10pm BST (9pm GMT) hospitality curfew, he said.
Most areas currently under local restrictions will "automatically" enter this level, he said.
"High" level reflects the local lockdown rules that are in place in parts of England currently, which primarily prevents people from socializing with other households indoors, but the so-called "support bubbles" will still be permitted.
"Very High" level is for places where "transmission rates are rising most rapidly" and the National Health Service "could soon be under unbearable pressure."
This level will see venues such as bars and pubs closed unless they can operate as restaurants, while people are also banned from socializing with other households both indoors and in private gardens, with local residents being advised against traveling in and out of these areas.
Further restrictions on hospitality, leisure, entertainment, and personal care sector could follow, but retail and education will stay open, Johnson said.
The Liverpool City Region will be placed in the "very high" level from Wednesday, the prime minister said, adding that following talks with local leaders, gyms, leisure centers, betting shops and casinos will also close in the region.
The announcement came at a time when countries, such as Britain, China, Russia and the United States are racing against time to develop coronavirus vaccines.
Johnson said that the number of COVID-19 cases had quadrupled over the past three weeks and there were more people in hospital now with the virus than when the country went into lockdown in March.
Another 13,972 people in Britain have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases in the country to 617,688, according to official figures released on Monday.
Meanwhile, further restrictions for London may be announced within days as the number of coronavirus cases in the city hit more than 7,700 a week.
Explaining the government's move, Johnson said that this is "not how we want to live our lives", but is "the narrow path we have to tread between social and economic costs of a full lockdown and the massive human and indeed economic cost of an uncontained epidemic".
For those who will be affected by the new measures, Johnson also set out relevant financial support plans — for example, the government will provide about 1 billion pounds (US$1.31 billion) of new funding to local authorities across Britain on top of the 3.6-billion-pound Towns Fund.