London: Boris Johnson faces being forced into imposing a national lockdown against his will as internal government projections put the U.K. on course for a prolonged winter peak in the pandemic — with a higher death toll than last spring.
The British prime minister has resisted a second country-wide lockdown, despite calls from the opposition Labour Party — and his own scientific advisers last month — to order a temporary “circuit breaker” closure to get the virus under control.
Instead, Johnson has opted for a localized approach, putting regions in England with the highest infection rates into a top tier of social-distancing restrictions, including a ban on household mixing and closing pubs that don’t sell meals.
Johnson is struggling to balance the demand of scientists and opposition politicians for tougher measures against calls — including from members of his Conservative Party — to prioritize easing of rules to help the economy.
But new modeling by the government’s emergency scientific committee suggests the whole of England is likely to require the tightest restrictions by mid-December — rendering Johnson’s localized approach effectively redundant.
The new wave of the pandemic will lead to more deaths than the first, the modeling suggests, because the daily death toll will stay high for longer — even though it will peak at a lower level than the first wave.
The Sun newspaper reported government scientists predict that about 25,000 people will be hospitalized with coronavirus by the end of November.
The U.K. reported 367 new deaths from coronavirus on Tuesday, the highest daily total since the end of May, and a further 22,885 new cases.
The projections triggered further criticism of the government’s pandemic response. Ministers “missed the window of opportunity” to impose a short lockdown during autumn school holidays as the Welsh government did, Labour’s health spokesman Jonathan Ashworth said.
‘Christmas at risk’
“I’m worried now that what we’ll see is deeper, more drastic lockdown action throughout November and December, which sadly probably does put Christmas at risk,” Ashworth told Times Radio on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, some opposition parties called for a four-nation summit — England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland — to agree a coordinated approach as people prepare to travel across borders back home for Christmas.
There has been “too much point-scoring between different governments across the U.K.,” Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey told the BBC. – Bloomberg
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