The United Kingdom should have started a new phase of its deconfinement on Saturday, August 1. Finally, Boris Johnson decided on Friday to postpone the deadline in the face of an increase in Covid-19 cases. The British government has also imposed new restrictions in some particularly affected areas of northern England.

With nearly 46,000 deaths of people testing positive for the virus, the United Kingdom has the heaviest death toll in Europe. The number of hospital admissions and deaths continues to fall, but contamination is on the rise for the first time since May.

Two weeks postponement

Criticized for having delayed reacting at the start of the pandemic, Boris Johnson's government now insists that it wants to react quickly. In recent days, he has multiplied the announcements, even if it means angering holidaymakers by reinstating a quarantine on return from Spain, or complicating the rules in place by imposing local restrictions.

On Friday, the Conservative Prime Minister postponed for at least two weeks the next easing scheduled for Saturday, explaining "that we must press the brake pedal to keep the virus under control".

Casinos, bowling alleys, skating rinks, beauty salons, performance halls ... These establishments were to reopen on Saturday, but they will still have to wait. The news was greeted with bitterness by the middle of the music scene struggling for its survival, which was preparing to welcome the public again.

The return of the public initiated in recent days in sports arenas, on the occasion of cricket matches and the world snooker championships in particular, has also been canceled.

Applied for the moment to businesses, the obligation to wear a mask will also be extended from August 8 to museums, cinemas and places of worship.

"I know the steps we take will be a real blow to a lot of people, to anyone whose wedding plans have been disrupted or who cannot now celebrate Eid as they would like," admitted Boris Johnson , adding: "I'm really, really sorry, but we just can't take any chances."

New restrictions in the north of England

In a weekly study published Friday, the National Bureau of Statistics (ONS) observes an increase in contamination, with around 4,200 new cases per day in England between July 20 and July 26. The estimate was 2,800 new cases daily the week before.

"What we are seeing (...) is that we have probably reached the limits of what we can do in terms of opening up society," said Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty.

In the face of the upsurge in coronavirus cases, new restrictions were imposed on residents of parts of northern England on Friday. Residents of Greater Manchester, parts of East Lancashire and West Yorkshire - around four million people - are now banned from meeting other people inside their homes or in their gardens. The Scottish government strongly advises against travel to these areas.

Faced with the increase in the number of cases in Spain, the British government has also imposed since July 26 two weeks of quarantine on travelers from the country, taking by surprise thousands of tourists already there and others who are were about to go there. Travelers arriving from Luxembourg will also have to self-isolate for 14 days.

Other countries could follow, Boris Johnson warned, forcing Britons tempted to go abroad to think twice. "We cannot make the mistake of thinking of ourselves as safe," the leader said, and "must be prepared to respond to the first signs of trouble."

With AFP

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