Coronavirus: ‘UK at a turning point’ as sharp COVID rise sees eight million Britons facing tougher lockdown
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- 1 One in three people in Scotland and one in 10 in England will soon be subject to tougher coronavirus rules.
Nearly eight million people in Britain will be living under stricter lockdown rules, including a large part of the West Midlands, ahead of a widespread ban on gatherings of more than six people.
From Monday, social gatherings of more than six people will be banned across England, Wales and Scotland.
Households will be banned from meeting each other in Birmingham, Sandwell and Solihull from Tuesday after a rise in coronavirus cases.
How 'rule of six' will work around UK
Lanarkshire is also joining areas around Glasgow subject to tougher rules.
Nine new local authorities have been added to Public Health England’s watchlist – which could potentially see tougher rules imposed in those areas as well.
They are: Gateshead, Sunderland, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Hertsmere, Liverpool, Knowsley, Sefton, Sheffield and St Helens.
When the new rules take effect in the West Midlands, Sky News analysis shows some 5.8 million people in England (1 in 10) will be under tougher lockdown rules than the rest of the country.
Areas already dealing with added restrictions include Bolton – which has the worst infection rate in England at 121.9 per 100,000 people – and where rules include restaurants and pubs only being allowed to do takeaways.
In Scotland, 1.76 million (1 in 3) are set to be under tougher rules, and in Wales it is 181,000 (1 in 20) – taking the total in Britain to 7.8 million.
Devi Sridhar, Professor in Global Public Health at the University of Edinburgh, told Sky News the “testing has to get sorted” if the country is to have any hope of avoiding a spike in cases as devastating as the initial wave earlier this year.
“This is a turning point in the UK,” she said.
“It’s more akin to February, I would say, than to March or April given we weren’t testing to the level we are today. We’re catching cases we weren’t seeing back in February.
“Right now there are hard decisions for governments of how to introduce measures that are proportionate, that are minimal, but also make sure that cases don’t take off again to exponential growth over the coming weeks.”
She said there was some cause for optimism in the fact “we know more than we did in February”.
Warning over 'party weekend' amid hot weather before stricter COVID rules come in
“There are steps that can be put into place to ensure we don’t repeat those mistakes and that we keep the numbers low, but in a way that doesn’t mean we lock people in their houses either.”
She added that a “more data-driven, targeted approach” could be achieved through testing, tracing, asking people to change their behaviour and the use of local restrictions where necessary.
“The testing has to get sorted,” she said.
“Before we get to ‘moonshot’ testing, we need to have testing that’s accessible, that’s available, perhaps in local GP surgeries and local COVID assessmenr centres, so people can quickly get tested.”
Sixty-three authorities in England were over the 20 cases per 100,000 mark in the most recent seven-day period ending 6 September.
That compares with 14 in the week ending 5 July.
UK cases also hit a near four-month high on Friday as 3,539 were reported – up from 2,919 the day before.
It followed analysis from the government’s scientific advisory body, SAGE, that the R number had risen above 1.0 for the first time since March.
Local authority heatmap 5 July
That indicates the disease is increasing exponentially across the UK – though daily cases are still far fewer than estimated at the peak of the pandemic.
A higher incidence of cases is being seen in people 18 to 24 years old, but there are signs older people are starting to be affected.
“Although younger people continue to make up the greatest share of new cases, we’re now starting to see worrying signs of infections occurring in the elderly, who are at far higher risk of getting seriously ill,” said Yvonne Doyle, Public Health England’s medical director.
Meanwhile, people returning to the UK from Portugal and Hungary today now have to self-isolate for 14 days and, there are warnings that unless people stick to the new rules, more measures may need to be enforced.
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It came as the chairman of the body representing rank and file police officers urged people to avoid a “party weekend” before the “rule of six” restrictions come into force on Monday.
John Apter, of the Police Federation of England and Wales said: “There is a real risk some members of the public will take advantage of the current situation and treat this weekend as a party weekend ahead of the tighter restrictions being introduced on Monday.”
A house party of 30 people was broken up by police in the early hours of Saturday in Manchester, where a local lockdown has been in force since July 30.
Police said: “The occupant claimed he wasn’t aware there were any Covid restrictions in place and couldn’t see what the problem was. People dispersed and fixed penalty notice issued.”