Millions more face virus restrictions in northern England

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Millions more people in northern England face stricter coronavirus rules next week, the government said on Friday, as it continues to respond locally to rising case rates.

As of Monday, nearly 2.4 million residents in five West Yorkshire districts, including the city of Leeds, will be banned from socializing with other households indoors.

Pubs and bars that do not serve “extensive meals” will have to close, along with casinos, betting shops, soft play facilities and adult gaming centers.

The public was also advised to avoid unnecessary travel.

The Department of Health said the measures were necessary as infection rates in West Yorkshire were “among the highest in the country” and were rising rapidly.

The move means that more than 11 million people, or roughly a fifth of the UK population, will be subject to the toughest restrictions by next week.

Most of the areas in the very high category of the government’s three-tier COVID alert system are in the north and center of the country.

Nottingham was the newest city to top tier on Friday.

On Thursday evening, young people in costume took to the streets and drank alcohol in large groups before a ban on selling alcohol in stores went into effect at 2100 GMT.

The UK has already been worst hit by the pandemic in Europe, with more than 45,000 people dead within 28 days of testing positive.

After a break, the case rates rise again and follow the situation in other parts of Europe.

According to the ongoing study by Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI, cases double every nine days and increase in all age groups and regions.


The UK’s European neighbors and the decentralized governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have partially imposed lockdowns to reduce infection rates.

But Prime Minister Boris Johnson has resisted the advice of his top scientists to follow suit in England, where the UK government sets health policy.

Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said Friday the government would continue its “targeted and focused” strategy of local restrictions in virus hotspots.

“It is the right thing to target the virus where it is the greatest threat … and science bears this out,” he told BBC Radio.

“The arbitrariness of a blanket approach would be far worse than the effects of trying to be as targeted as possible.”

Meanwhile, a new study reported Friday that a variant of COVID-19 originating in Spanish farm workers has spread rapidly across Europe in recent months and now accounts for the majority of cases in the UK.

The variant – called 20A.EU1 – is said to have been spread by people from northeastern Spain who have returned from vacation, according to the study, which is awaiting peer review in a medical journal.

There is currently no evidence that the strain is spreading faster or affecting the severity and immunity of the disease.

“We are currently working with laboratories to investigate the mutations more closely, but we actually believe that the behavior was really the crucial point here,” said Emma Hodcroft, lead author of the study at the University of Basel, to BBC Radio.

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