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U.K. PM Johnson imposes further COVID-19 restrictions, but anger rising

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday imposed a tiered system of further restrictions on parts of England, including closing some pubs as the COVID-19 outbreak accelerates, though anger is rising at the cost of the curtailment of freedoms.

New tiered system an attempt to standardize patchwork of often complicated and confusing restrictions

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson wears a face mask as he walks outside Downing Street in London last month. Johnson outlined new rules on Monday as rates of COVID-19 infection surge. (Hannah McKay/Reuters)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday imposed a tiered system of further restrictions on parts of England including closing some pubs as the COVID-19 outbreak accelerates, though anger is rising at the cost of the curtailment of freedoms.

Johnson's three-tiered system, announced in Parliament, is an attempt to standardize a patchwork of often complicated and confusing restrictions imposed across England. Under the new measures, the classifications fall under "medium, high, or very high risk."

The lockdowns will include shutting pubs and bars in areas placed into the "very high" alert level. So far, Liverpool is the only area yet in that category. Gyms, leisure centres, betting shops, adult gaming centres and casinos located there will also close on Wednesday, Johnson said.

"We must act to save lives," Johnson told Parliament, adding that he did not want another national lockdown.

Liverpool has one of the most severe COVID-19 outbreaks in the country, with about 600 cases per 100,000 people — which is more than other hard-hit European cities like Madrid and Brussels. 

"If we let the virus rip, then the bleak mathematics dictate that we would suffer not only an intolerable death toll from COVID, but we would put such a huge strain on our NHS with an uncontrolled second spike that our doctors and nurses would simply be unable to devote themselves to other treatments," said Johnson.

A person walks in west London on Sunday. (Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images)

Health officials say the freshest data showed infections were rising across the north of England and in some more southerly areas, too, while the virus was creeping up age bands toward the elderly from those aged 16-29 years.

Manchester intensive care consultant Jane Eddleston said 30 per cent of critical care beds were taken up with COVID-19 patients — and starting to impact on health care for others.

Bar, restaurant employees say support package falls short

The U.K. saw COVID-19 cases decline over the summer, but infections are rising again heading into colder months. Currently, northwest and northeast England are seeing the steepest increases with Liverpool being the epicentre. 

The country has seen the deadliest outbreak in Europe, with a death toll of 42,875. Health officials have said strict measures are needed so hospitals are not overwhelmed as flu season also begins. 

Areas in the lowest tier will comply with existing national restrictions that include a 10 p.m. curfew on pubs and restaurants, and a ban on gatherings of more than six people. High risk zones prevent members of different households from meeting indoors. 

WATCH | Earlier this month, British citizens expressed confusion over virus rules:

Confusion surrounds new rules in U.K. amid COVID-19 surge

The National

10 months ago
2:10
Emergency measures are in place in the U.K. as COVID-19 cases surge, but there is confusion about what exactly the current rules are. With 42,233 deaths, the U.K. has the highest death toll from COVID-19 in Europe. 2:10

Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson said local authorities are supporting the tougher restrictions if they are accompanied by improved testing and contact tracing measures, which he says Johnson's government has agreed to. 

As well as protecting lives and doing things to tackle the virus, we also need to protect livelihoods, so we argued really strongly for a stronger financial package," said Anderson, a member of the opposition Labour Party. "Unfortunately, that wasn't listened to."

Those working in pubs and restaurants say the government's support package, which would cover two-thirds of the salaries of businesses that are forced to shutter, is not enough. Some have said the government has not provided proof that dining out has been a source of COVID-19 outbreaks.

But Calum Semple, professor of outbreak medicine at the University of Liverpool and a member of the government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, said "most of the outbreaks are happening within and between households, and then after that, it's in the retail and hospitality sector."

With files from The Associated Press

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