Under the new system, the country will be placed in “medium”, “high” and “very high” alert levels. Johnson’s office said the government was working with local leaders to decide which areas have the very high alert and appropriate responses to those areas.
Details of what is involved at each level have not been confirmed, but the highest level should generally involve the closure of pubs and restaurants and a ban on mixing of households, indoors and out. exterior, among other measures.
The new lockdown system, which aims to simplify the process by which local restrictions are imposed, has been widely anticipated for a few weeks following a surge in new cases. After further discussions early Monday, Johnson will brief lawmakers on the new system before holding a briefing with Treasury chief Rishi Sunak and government chief medical officer Chris Whitty.
England’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam has warned that the UK is at a similar “tipping point” as the country was in 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 deal with it – let’s seize this opportunity and stop history from repeating itself. “
Across Europe, including the UK, there have been huge increases in coronavirus cases in recent weeks following the reopening of major sectors of the economy, as well as schools and universities. Infection levels – and deaths – in the UK are increasing at their fastest rate in months.
Without swift action, there are fears that UK hospitals will be overwhelmed in the coming weeks at a time of year when they are already at the highest level of winter-related afflictions like the flu. The UK has experienced the deadliest epidemic in Europe, with an official death toll of 42,825, up from another 65 on Sunday.
Although coronavirus infections are on the increase across England, northern cities like Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle have seen a disproportionate increase. While some rural areas in eastern England have less than 20 cases per 100,000 population, some large metropolitan areas have recently recorded levels above 500 per 100,000 population, almost as bad as Madrid or Brussels.
As a result, national restrictions such as the 10 p.m. curfew on pubs and restaurants have been complemented by local actions, including in some cases bans on household contact. In Scotland’s two largest cities, Glasgow and Edinburgh, pubs have already closed for 16 days to quell the outbreak.
The local Liverpool chief has said he expects his city to face the heaviest restrictions.
Local leaders in northern England have expressed fury at the Conservative government for what they see as an ‘inadequate’ wage support scheme it announced on Friday and for failing to properly inform them of the upcoming restrictions . The salary plan aims to help employees of businesses that are forced to close due to virus restrictions, but mayors say it is not generous enough to pay only two-thirds of employee salaries and only compensate not those who are indirectly affected by business closures such as drink suppliers to pubs.
On Sunday, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick tried to allay concerns that the government was too hierarchical in its approach. He also said local authorities will have more control over the national testing and traceability program, which has struggled to live up to Johnson’s prediction that it will “beat the world”.
“In addition to the national infrastructure which is growing and increasing every week, we will also be using the local councils to seek out contacts in particular, as it is clear that the local councils are good in this area, as you would expect”, he told the BBC.