Wed | Aug 5, 2020

Britain delays easing of lockdown as virus spread speeds up

Published:Friday | July 31, 2020 | 10:34 AM
Muslim men arrive at the Bradford Grand Mosque for Eid al-Adha prayers, in Bradford, West Yorkshire, England, Friday, July 31, 2020. (Danny Lawson/PA via AP)

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson put some of the country’s next steps out of lockdown on hold Friday with just a few hours’ notice, saying the number of new coronavirus cases was on the rise for the first time since May.

The government’s top medical adviser warned that it was impossible to fully reopen society without the virus running out of control.

Johnson said statistics showed that the prevalence of COVID-19 in the community is likely increasing, with an estimated 4,900 new infections every day, up from 2,000 a day at the end of June.

Britain has Europe’s highest confirmed death toll in the pandemic, more than 46,000, behind only the United States and Brazil.

“We just can’t afford to ignore this evidence,” Johnson said at a news conference. “With those numbers creeping up, our assessment is that we should now squeeze (the) brake pedal in order to keep the virus under control.”

Johnson called off plans to allow venues, including casinos, bowling alleys and skating rinks, to open beginning Saturday. The return of wedding receptions was also delayed, along with plans to allow some fans back into sports stadiums and limited audiences into theatres.

He said the measures will be reviewed after two weeks.

The prime minister said a rule requiring face coverings to be worn in shops and on public transit will be extended to museums, galleries, cinemas and places of worship beginning on August 8.

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