THE UK has introduced more coronavirus restrictions across a wider area of England, including the northern city of Liverpool, extending a tighter regime to try to stem rising Covid-19 cases.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Parliament on Thursday (1) the virus was “spreading fast” in some parts of the country.
“In Liverpool, the number of cases is 268 per 1,000 — so we need to act,” he added.
“I am today extending these measures that have been in place in the northeast since the start of this week to the Liverpool city region, Warrington, Hartlepool and Middlesbrough.
“The rules will be as follows, we recommend against all social mixing between people in different households. We will bring in regulations as we have in the North East to prevent, in law, social mixing between people in different households in all settings except outdoor public spaces like parks and outdoor hospitality.”
The announcement came as England saw a 61 per cent increase in Covid-19 cases, according to the latest weekly data.
NHS Test and Trace said “31,373 people tested positive for coronavirus for the first time in England between 17 September and 23 September”.
“Positive cases have been rising steeply over the last four weeks, with over four times as many positive cases identified in the most recent week compared to the end of August,” it added.
Hancock said he understood concerns about pubs and restaurants, many of which have been hurt by the introduction of a 10pm curfew.
“Our hospitality industry provides so much colour and life in this country,” he said.
“And we will do whatever we can to support them while acting fast to keep this virus under control. I know that these measures are hard, and that they are yet another sacrifice.”
Earlier this week, the government had imposed tighter curbs on much of northeastern England.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson had on Wednesday appealed to people to adhere to the rules, repeating his desire to not only protect public health but to also keep the economy going.
“We have to stick to it together, and we should stick to it with confidence,” he said.
“I know some people think we should give up and let the virus take its course despite the huge loss of life that may entail. I profoundly disagree. I don’t think the British people want to throw in the sponge, they want to fight and defeat this virus.”
The UK’s top health scientists, too, joined the prime minister in cautioning that the pandemic was not “under control at the moment”.
“Things are definitely heading in the wrong direction,” noted the UK’s chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance.
England’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, added: “We are pointing out that the direction of travel for both hospitals and intensive care is going in the wrong direction, particularly in these areas that have seen rapid increases in cases.
“We have got a long winter ahead of us.”