British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is pumping the brakes on easing coronavirus lockdown restrictions as officials express concern for rising case numbers.
Johnson, who himself survived a bout of COVID-19, announced on Friday that planned next steps in reopening the country are being put on hold for at least the next two weeks. The prime minister said the number of new cases is increasing in the United Kingdom for the first time since May, the Associated Press reported.
The Conservative prime minister said that numbers of new infections are totaling about 4,900 per day, up from the 2,000-per-day average at the end of June.
“We just can’t afford to ignore this evidence,” Johnson said. “With those numbers creeping up, our assessment is that we should now squeeze [the] brake pedal in order to keep the virus under control.”
Certain venues were planned to reopen again on Saturday, including casinos, bowling alleys, and skating rinks, but Johnson’s surprise move will delay those changes for the next couple of weeks. Plans to have limited audiences at some upcoming sporting events and plans to permit wedding receptions have also been paused.
Johnson also said the mandate requiring that masks be worn on public transportation and in stores will also be expanded to include museums, movie theaters, and churches starting on Aug. 8.
The prime minister has been overseeing the rollout of a sweeping influenza vaccine push designed to prevent a wave of patients this flu season as the country simultaneously tries to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic.
He has also highlighted the importance of nutrition and staying fit, given his own battle with the coronavirus and the complications that his obesity caused. The 55-year-old was released from a hospital in London on Easter Sunday. At one point during his treatment, he was put in the intensive care unit.