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After 'warning light', British PM halts COVID lockdown unwind

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After 'warning light', British PM halts COVID lockdown unwind

By Alistair Smout and Paul Sandle

 

2020-07-31T173102Z_1_LYNXNPEG6U1L7_RTROPTP_4_HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS-BRITAIN-MANCHESTER.JPG

A woman wearing a protective mask walks down the street, as the city and surrounding area faces local restrictions in an effort to avoid a local lockdown being forced upon the area, amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, in Manchester, Britain, July 31, 2020. REUTERS/Molly Darlington

 

LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday postponed a planned easing of the coronavirus lockdown in England after a rise in infections amplified fears of a second deadly surge in COVID-19 cases.

 

Just hours after Britain imposed tougher measures on swathes of northern England, Johnson announced that casinos, bowling alleys and skating rinks, due to reopen on Saturday, would remain shut for at least two more weeks.

 

Wedding receptions would also not be allowed.

 

"We're now seeing a warning light on the dashboard," Johnson told reporters at an online news conference from Downing Street when asked about a second surge.

 

"Our assessment is that we should now squeeze that brake pedal in order to keep the virus under control."

 

Britain's death toll from COVID-19 is over 55,000 when deaths from suspected cases are included, and it has the highest "excess death" rate in Europe.

 

The abrupt halt to the unwind and the imposition of stricter restrictions on more than 4 million people were the biggest reversal to date in Britain's path out of lockdown.

 

"I know that the steps we are taking will be a real blow to many people," Johnson added. "I am really, really sorry about that but we simply cannot take the risk."

 

'NEAR THE LIMITS'

 

As the world grapples with a possible second wave, Johnson said the virus was gathering pace in Asia and Latin America while continental Europe was struggling to keep it under control.

 

The virus, which first emerged in China, has already killed at least 670,000 people and battered the global economy.

Britain reported 846 new cases on Thursday, the highest daily number in over a month.

 

UK scientists are no longer confident the reproduction number in England is below 1, the government said on Friday, meaning the epidemic could be growing again.

 

A separate survey also showed infections were on the rise for the first time since May.

 

"Evidence from Europe implies that we should take the apparent increase seriously, as acting too late can make lockdowns longer and increase mortality," said Daniel Lawson, lecturer in statistical science at the University of Bristol.

 

"The UK is clearly close to the tipping point in which the infection grows ... We should be prepared for further rapid action to prevent the infection from getting out of control again."

 

England's Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, speaking alongside Johnson, said the government had probably reached the limits of reopening.

 

"We all know that what we have to try and do is to get to the absolute edge of what we can do in terms of opening up society and the economy without getting to the point where the virus starts to take off again," he said.

 

"We have probably reached near the limits, or the limits, of what we can do in terms of opening up society."

 

(Writing by Guy Faulconbridge, Kate Holton and Alistair Smout; Additional reporting by Andy MacAskill; Editing by Nick Macfie and Andrew Cawthorne)

 

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-- © Copyright Reuters 2020-08-01
 

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And this will be a continuing UK scenario for many months - and globally - until vaccines are available and distributed throughout the country - world.

 

The hit on the global economy will be huge, let alone the deaths caused by this insidious virus. We live in interesting times... 

 

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what did you think would happen when you opened bars? and you even had the US to look upon to see the future. No problem with not opening the schools, with the decisions that are being made they look like they weren't doing the job anyways..

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A conspiracy troll post and a reply have been removed

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2 hours ago, Krataiboy said:

Cheer up, Stephen. The COVID outbreak is clearly on its last legs and by the time we get a properly tried and tested vaccine, it will probably either have become redundant or largely ineffective against the hundred-plus sons and daughters of Sars 2 already doing the rounds.

 

Vaccines rushed to market without adequate trials have a chequered history. For this reason, whichever lab wins the current race, their shots must be offered only a voluntary basis, as with flu. Body sovereignty is one of our few remaining human rights not already being trampled on the pretext of beating the pandemic.

 

Economies which have suffered most in the last six months have done so not because of the virus but as a result of panicky, ill-thought-out political policies, not least business-wrecking lockdowns. Next time around, we need to learn the lesson of Sweden's saner, more rational approach and their healthy subsequent bounce-back.

 

Meanwhile in the real world, the virus continues to grow with Mexico showing the biggest increase at the moment.  We know there is a surge again in Spain and today it was reported that France is seeing a rise in certain areas.  Yesterday Johnson stopped all easing of the lockdown with serious spikes in the north of England.

 

Vaccine testing is going on and so far that seems to be positive.  A way to go though before they are confident enough to make it available to the general public.

 

I do agree that the government have screwed up their response to the virus in the UK and that has cost thousands of lives and wrecked hundreds of small businesses.  But that is with hindsight and therefore an easy call to make.  You would hope that Johnson and Hancock would be learning as they go on but clearly they are floundering and haven't got a clue how to handle this pandemic.  

 

 

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32 minutes ago, Krataiboy said:

Pandemics tend to run their course, no matter what measures are taken. Lockdowns simply delay the inevitable. Which is why the UK should have abandoned this disastrous policy once the health service in no danger of being overwhelmed - if it ever was.

 

Sweden is as guilty as the UK if failing to protect the vulnerable and elderly, and paid the same heavy rice in terms of inflated COVID deaths figures in care homes.

 

But unlike my homeland, Sweden chose to treat its citizenry like responsible adults rather than wayward children, in the process preserving not just its economy but a way of life preferable to any repressive "new normal" inflicted on the downtrodden Brits.

 

Mass tracking and tracing like that used in Korea and Taiwan is only feasible when populations have been brainwashed into sacrificing their privacy and personal freedom. Personally, I'd rather keep my civil liberties and risk the virus.

 

So by your thoughts the UK should have abondoned lockdown once the NHS was up to scratch, correct? So considering that with lockdown the death total in the UK so far is approx. 46,000 what in your view would be an acceptable number of deaths then? 100,000, 150,000, 200,000?

These are the numbers extrapolated out so I'd be interested to hear just how many you would be willing to sacrifice.

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Just now, dunroaming said:

Meanwhile in the real world, the virus continues to grow with Mexico showing the biggest increase at the moment.  We know there is a surge again in Spain and today it was reported that France is seeing a rise in certain areas.  Yesterday Johnson stopped all easing of the lockdown with serious spikes in the north of England.

 

Vaccine testing is going on and so far that seems to be positive.  A way to go though before they are confident enough to make it available to the general public.

 

I do agree that the government have screwed up their response to the virus in the UK and that has cost thousands of lives and wrecked hundreds of small businesses.  But that is with hindsight and therefore an easy call to make.  You would hope that Johnson and Hancock would be learning as they go on but clearly they are floundering and haven't got a clue how to handle this pandemic.  

 

 

I agree with your last comments about Johnson and Hancock. Regarding a surge in infection rates, this is inevitable as testing becomes more widespread among populations who have not previously been exposed to the virus because of lockdowns.

 

The important thing to remember is that the COVID death rate is going through the floor (excess deaths in the UK have been below normal for a couple of weeks or so) and that only a tiny fraction of people who become infected go on to develop more than mild symptoms or none at all.

 

Unfortunately, the fear factor generated by self-serving politicians and their accomplices in the mass media appears to have detached most people from reality, resulting in mass hysteria and paranoia that is worse than anything I can recall - even during the fraught war years.

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1 minute ago, johnnybangkok said:

So by your thoughts the UK should have abondoned lockdown once the NHS was up to scratch, correct? So considering that with lockdown the death total in the UK so far is approx. 46,000 what in your view would be an acceptable number of deaths then? 100,000, 150,000, 200,000?

These are the numbers extrapolated out so I'd be interested to hear just how many you would be willing to sacrifice.

Boris initially told us purpose of the lockdown was to "flatten the curve" to ensure the NHS could cope.  That seemed reasonable at the time. So what's his story now, as rolling lockdowns and compulsory muzzling become the new normal?

 

Where is your evidence that ongoing lockdowns reduce infections and deaths? I know of none. What IS known is the enormous amount of collateral damage lockdowns cause in terms of human and economic health.

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