Plans to further ease lockdown measures in England scrapped, says PM

Clay Curtis
July 31, 2020

"On Saturday August 1, you'll remember we had hoped to reopen a number of the higher-risk settings that had remained closed and today I'm saying we're postponing those changes for at least a fortnight".

The prime minister also announced pilots of sporting events with crowds and gatherings in conference centres will be delayed, and face coverings will become mandatory in places such as museums, galleries, cinemas and places of worship from 8 August.

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference, Mr Johnson said that in the absence of a vaccine the "only real utensil" available in controlling the disease was "human behaviour". "We can not be complacent".

He said: "Most people in this country are following the rules and doing their best to control the virus".

The Government's Sage (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) committee discussed data on July 2 which suggested "a gradual decline in self-reported hand-washing frequency over the course of the epidemic" and said it is "worth revisiting behavioural interventions to increase uptake".

"We can't afford to ignore this evidence", he added.

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The new rules, which came into effect from midnight, also ban members of two different households from mixing in pubs, restaurants and other hospitality venues, but these businesses will remain open for those visiting individually or from the same household.

Wedding receptions with up to 30 people would also not be permitted but ceremonies could continue while following COVID-19 government guidelines. "Unless people follow the rules and behave safely, we may need to go further".

New data published by the government on Friday show the so-called R number, representing how many people each new Covid-19 patient infects, may be above the critical threshold of 1 in the northwest and southwest of England.

And in a further blow to the economy, England's Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty warned that it might not be possible to ease lockdown further.

"That means until August 15 at the earliest casinos, bowling alleys, skating rinks and the remaining close-contact services must remain closed. So what that means potentially is that if we wish to do more things in the future, we may have to do less of some other things", he said.

And the blanket nature of Thursday's fresh restrictions on a large swathe of northern England highlights the risk that the government's test and trace system - created to reach people who have been in close contact with newly-infected patients - may not yet be effective enough to target small localised outbreaks.

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