Keir Starmer, the leader of the U.K.’s opposition Labour Party, called for a two- or three-week national “circuit breaker” lockdown in England to slow the spread of coronavirus.
Speaking after the U.K. reported its highest daily rise in coronavirus deaths since June, Starmer added to increasing pressure on Boris Johnson’s government to take tougher action against the disease.
“If we act now, if we follow the science and break the circuit, we can get this virus under control,” Starmer said in a televised press conference. “If we don’t, we can sleepwalk into a long and bleak winter.”
Official figures released on Tuesday showed 143 people died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19, bringing the total death toll to 43,018. That’s the highest daily toll since June 10, according to the government’s coronavirus dashboard.
Starmer said that under his proposal, schools would stay open but non-essential businesses would close, household mixing would be limited to one other household and restaurants and bars would close. It would need to be backed with substantial government financial support, he said.
Separate figures on Tuesday showed there were 3,905 Covid-19 patients in the hospital in England, up from 2,783 the previous week. Some 441 Covid-19 patients were in mechanical ventilation beds, compared to 349 a week earlier.
“The trend in Covid-related deaths is starting to rise quickly, which is hugely concerning,” Yvonne Doyle, medical director at Public Health England, said in an email. “We have seen cases increasing especially in older age groups which is leading to more hospital admissions.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Monday that bars and pubs will be closed in the worst-hit parts of England to control the pandemic, and that he hoped to avoid another full national lockdown.
But Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty warned the new measures won’t be enough, and newly-released papers showed the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) had recommended a short “circuit breaker” national lockdown.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he favors additional restrictions in the capital and they could come as soon as this week as cases and hospitalizations rise.
“Londoners should understand that this could change very quickly – potentially even this week,” Khan told the BBC. “For a short period of time having additional restrictions to stop the virus spreading and dealing with it is far more effective in the medium-to-long term.”
— With assistance by Alex Morales
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