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Covid-19: UK at a tipping point, braces for lockdown

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Millions of people in northern England are anxiously waiting to hear how much further virus restrictions will be tightened as one of the British government’s leading medical advisers warned on Sunday that the country is at a crucial juncture in the second wave of the coronavirus.

England’s deputy chief medical officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, said the UK is at a “tipping point similar to where we were in March” following a sharp increase in new coronavirus cases.

“But we can prevent history repeating itself if we all act now,” he said. “Now we know where it is and how to tackle it – let’s grasp this opportunity and prevent history from repeating itself.”

All across Europe including the UK, there have been huge increases in coronavirus cases over the past few weeks following the reopening of large sectors of the economy, as well as schools and universities. Infection levels – and deaths – in the UK are rising at their fastest rates in months.

Without quick action, there are fears that UK hospitals will be overwhelmed in the coming weeks at a time of the year when they are already at their busiest with winter-related afflictions like the flu. So far, the UK has experienced Europe’s deadliest virus outbreak, with more than 42,750 confirmed deaths.

Although new coronavirus infections are rising throughout England, northern cities like Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle have seen a disproportionate increase in new cases. While some rural areas in eastern England have less than 20 cases per 100,000 people, major metropolitan areas such as Manchester are recording levels above 500 per 100,000, nearly as bad as Madrid or Brussels.

As a result, national restrictions such as a 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants have been supplemented by local actions, including in some cases banning contacts between households. In Scotland’s two biggest cities, Glasgow and Edinburgh, pubs have already closed for 16 days to suppress the outbreak.

In response to the virus’ resurgence, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce a new three-tier local lockdown system today, which could temporarily close pubs and restaurants in the virus hot spots.