The U.K. added London to its watch list of potential pandemic hot spots as coronavirus cases surge across the country.
The move will fuel fears that the capital, which recorded 620 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday, could face the kind of local lockdown measures imposed on other cities, such as bans on households mixing and the closure of non-essential stores.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to act quickly and stop people visiting each others homes to slow the spread of the disease, the Guardian reported, citing an interview.
While no new restrictions will be put on London immediately, designation as an area of “concern” means extra testing will be made available, according toLondon Councils, which represents the city’s local authorities.
After a summer in which Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government encouraged people to eat out and return to their workplaces to boost the economy, case numbers are now surging in many parts of the U.K. ahead of the critical winter months.
The latest Office for National Statisticssurvey published Friday found the infection rate in England increased to 1 in 500 people from 1 in 900 in the week through Sept. 19, excluding hospitals and care homes, with all ages affected. In both Wales and Northern Ireland, the rate was 1 in 300. The daily rate of new infections in England rose to 9,600 from 6,000, according to the ONS.
Inofficial testing data, the U.K. reported 6,634 new cases on Thursday, the highest number in a single day since the start of the pandemic. On Friday, the government reported the so-calledR-number, or virus reproduction rate, across the U.K. is between 1.2 and 1.5. It means that on average every 10 people with the disease will infect between 12 and 15 other people.
The Welsh government said Friday new lockdown restrictions willcome into force in Cardiff and Swansea — the two biggest cities in Wales — over the weekend, while university students in Scotland have been ordered to stop socializing.
In London, Khan blamed the lack of testing capacity for the capital’s addition to the U.K. watchlist.
“London is at a very worrying tipping point right now,” the mayor said in an emailed statement. “It’s vital that testing capacity is increased immediately in London and focused in the areas it is needed most. Any delay will mean letting the city down and will cost lives.”
the mayor told the Guardian he’d asked Johnson to act quickly after City Hall analysis showed the capital wasn’t far behind other areas where the virus has taken hold again.
“We should be following what’s happening around the country and stopping social mixing of households, and I say that with a heavy heart,” he told the paper.
— With assistance by Andrew Atkinson, David Goodman, Charles Capel, Colin Keatinge, and Alex Morales
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