Millions in UK enter tougher lockdowns

Traffic passes a COVID-19 sign informing drivers of the "firebreak" lockdown which comes into force from 6:00 pm (1700 GMT), closing non-food retailers, cafes, restaurants, pubs and hotels for two weeks in a bid to reduce soaring coronavirus cases on October 23, 2020 in Cardiff. (Photo by Geoff Caddick / AFP)



Millions of people across the UK enter tougher lockdown from Friday, including a complete “firebreak” shutdown in Wales, as the country battles to get a grip on a resurgence of COVID-19.  Greater Manchester’s population of 2.8 million joined Liverpool City Region and Lancashire in England’s highest tier of restrictions at midnight, which involves a near-complete business shutdown.

South Yorkshire will move into the same Tier 3 restrictions from midnight on Saturday, bringing the total number of people living under England’s tightest rules to more than seven million.

Tier 3 of “very high” COVID-19 alert level means people cannot mix with other households and pubs and bars will be closed – unless they are serving substantial meals. Some areas in the top tier have also gone further, closing businesses such as bingo halls, casinos, betting shops and soft play centres.

Households are banned from mixing at all, even outdoors in private gardens or anywhere inside, and people are advised against travelling into or out of the area.

Under the tier system backed up by fines for serious breaches laid out by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week, Tier 1 is set at a medium COVID-19 alert with some meeting between households permitted within the “rule of six” on gathering numbers and a high alert of stricter movement and gathering rules are set for Tier 2 – the category in which London was added to last weekend.

And from Friday evening, 3.1 million people in Wales will have to stay at home as the 17-day firebreak lockdown begins. Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford used his daily briefing to hit back at critics of his tough stance.

“There are those who seek to persuade us that the risk of coronavirus is all just a hoax. That it is a mild disease that does no harm. They do not face the families of the people who have died this week who will never see or speak to their loved ones again,” said Drakeford.

“They do not face the families of the people who have died this week who will never see or speak to their loved ones again. They will never face hundreds of more people who will die in Wales unless we act now to bring this deadly disease back under control,” he said.

Meanwhile, Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon unveiled her region’s five-tier strategy, two more than those in force across England. It features five levels of measures – from level zero to four – to be applied in different areas of Scotland depending on the spread of the virus.

The top-level would be close to a full lockdown, but the aim is for schools to remain open at all levels, and Tier 5 to imposed only in an extreme scenario.

The Scottish leader said the new strategy was about “striking the best balances we can” between suppressing the virus and minimising wider harms to businesses and individuals.