U.K. Virus Cases Surge as Dissent Mounts Over Boris Johnson’s Strategy

U.K. Virus Cases Surge as Dissent Mounts Over Boris Johnson’s Strategy

The number of UK coronavirus cases has risen amid growing anger over Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s strategy to deal with the pandemic.

Some 17,540 new cases were recorded on Thursday, an increase of more than 3,000 from Wednesday. Medical Director of Public Health England, Yvonne Doyle warned of a “definitive and lasting” increase in cases and hospitalizations. “The trend is clear and it is very worrying,” she said in a statement.

Earlier Thursday, England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty met with politicians in northern England and the Midlands to highlight the virus’s sharp rise. He was joined by the Minister of Health, Edward Argar at the virtual meeting of more than 100 multi-party MPs on Thursday, two people familiar with the matter said.

The sobering data comes as Johnson’s team prepares to announce new restrictions for the worst-affected areas of the country from Monday, potentially including the closure of restaurants and bars. The Prime Minister warned that viral restrictions would likely be in place for at least another six months.
In other developments:

  • Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden is set to give coronavirus grants totaling £ 103m ($ 133m) on Friday to bail out 445 cultural organizations, including castles and cathedrals
  • Test and trace data on Thursday showed tracers only reached 68.6% of close contacts of positive cases in the week ending September 30, up from 72.5% and significantly below target by 80%.
  • Data from the British Retail Consortium on Friday revealed the effect of viral restrictions on shopping habits, with malls and main streets dropping by more than 30% in September from a year earlier.
  • Labor Party leader Keir Starmer wrote in the Telegraph that Johnson had“Lost control” of the virus and its approach to local lockdowns is causing “confusion, chaos and injustice”.
  • The National Health Service has launched a campaign to urge people to get checked for symptoms of cancer and other complaints, and not be put off by fear of catching coronavirus.
  • The Times reported that a new leave program for areas with strict local restrictions will pay workers 2/3 of their wages.

Johnson is facing growing anger from members of his own party who complain about restrictions on civil liberties and the lack of parliamentary oversight of the new measures.

Meanwhile, local leaders say they have not been consulted on the new rules.

“I will not accept that the government simply imposes restrictions on us, these decisions, by informing them late at night,” Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, told the BBC’s “Question Time” program on Thursday evening. “They need to treat the people of the north of England with more respect.”

Burnham said he would “use all means possible to challenge” any proposal closing pubs and restaurants if there is not “full support for the people and businesses involved”.

Just last week, ministers promised lawmakers to vote on any “significant” restrictions nationwide, but it is not yet clear whether next week’s measures in northern England will fall into this category. It’s also unclear whether Whitty’s reunion will appease potential rebels ahead of a Tuesday vote on the 10 pm national curfew for pubs and restaurants.

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