London. Millions of people in the north of England are eagerly awaiting how strict the coronavirus restrictions will be implemented in the coming days after the British government confirmed on Sunday that it will install a new system for local lockdowns.
In response to the resurgence of the virus, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce in Parliament on Monday a three-tier system of local lockdown, formally known as “COVID Local Alert Levels,” for England, his office reported.
Under the new system, the country will have “intermediate”, “high” and “very high” alert levels, as needed. Johnson’s office said the government works with local leaders to decide which areas will be covered under the “very high” alert level, and what will be the appropriate interventions for those areas.
Details of what each level involves are not yet confirmed, but the highest level is anticipated to include closing bars and restaurants and a ban on family interaction, both indoors and outdoors, along with other restrictions.
The new restriction system, which aims to simplify the process by which local restrictions are implemented, had already been anticipated for a couple of weeks after a marked spike in infections. After further debate Monday morning, Johnson will brief lawmakers on the new system before meeting with Treasury Director Rishi Sunak and the government’s director of public health Chris Whitty.
England’s deputy head of public health, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, warned that the UK is at a “tipping point” similar to last March.
“But we can prevent history from repeating itself if we all act now,” he said. “Now we know where it is and how to fight it … let’s seize this opportunity and prevent history from repeating itself.”
Across Europe, including the UK, there have been sharp increases in coronavirus cases in recent weeks following the reopening of large sectors of the economy, as well as schools and universities. Infection and death rates in Britain are rising to their fastest level in several months.
Without urgent action, there are fears that the nation’s hospitals will be overwhelmed in the coming weeks during a time of year when they are already very busy due to winter conditions like influenza. Britain has experienced the deadliest outbreak in Europe, with an official death toll of 42,825, after the 65 reported on Sunday.
Although coronavirus infections are on the rise across England, northern cities such as Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle have seen a disproportionate increase. While in some rural areas of eastern England there are fewer than 20 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, in some of the large metropolitan areas recent figures have exceeded 500 infections per 100,000 people, a level almost as high as that of Madrid or Brussels.