UK braces for holiday COVID-19 surge, tighter restrictions
Large parts of southern England are now in the highest virus alert level, Tier 3, starting Dec. 19.
The U.K. entered the final week before Christmas with the country bracing for post-celebration coronavirus fallout and Prime Minister Boris Johnson refusing on Dec. 18 to rule out a fresh national lockdown after the holiday.
And when classes resume in the new year, schools are expected to roll out mass testing for students and staff, a plan that drew criticism because the government announced it at the last minute.
The government plans to relax restrictions on socializing and travel for five days before and after Christmas. With infections rising in the U.K., which has Europe’s second-highest coronavirus death toll, there are concerns about a possible fresh surge of cases and deaths after the holidays.
Officials moved this week to tighten up the existing restrictions for much of the population by putting large parts of southern England into the highest virus alert level, Tier 3, from Dec. 19.
The latest official figures showed infections climbing across the U.K., with a sharp increase in London. The percentage of people testing positive for the coronavirus over the past week rose in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, according to data released Friday by the Office of National Statistics.