World

UK PM warns of tougher virus measures

By AAP Newswire

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned that authorities will have to impose tougher measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 and "protect" the Christmas holidays as the government prepares to introduce stricter measures in northeast England.

Johnson's comments came amid reports the government plans to impose a 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants in response to a recent jump in confirmed coronavirus cases. Local officials asked for more restrictions now to prevent a tighter lockdown later.

Johnson wrote in a piece published in The Sun newspaper the only way to be certain the country could enjoy the winter holidays "is to be tough now".

He said he wants to "stop the surge, arrest the spike, stop the second hump of the dromedary, flatten the second hump".

In the past two days, opposition MPs had criticised Johnson's handling of the COVID-19 crisis and accused his government of lacking a cohesive plan to tackle a second wave of the pandemic. A shortage of testing capacity is a particular concern, with people around the country complaining they were unable to book appointments for tests or directed to testing centres far from their homes.

Widespread testing is seen as crucial to controlling the spread of the virus because it allows those who are infected to self-isolate while helping health officials identify hot spots and trace those who are infected.

Daily infection rates have risen to levels not seen since late May, forcing the British government to impose limits on public gatherings.

Figures released late Wednesday showed 3991 new confirmed cases during the previous 24 hours, up from 3105 a day earlier.

Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes said the measures expected for the northeast of the country are seen as "preventative". Forbes told the BBC there is concern that the average age of people testing positive with the virus is going up.

Details about the new restrictions remain thin. Labour MPs representing northeast England called for further information.

Local leaders elsewhere in the country are also demanding government action and more testing to stave off a second wave of infections.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan called for action to counter "chaos and confusion." He told London Assembly members that testing troubles were "putting lives and livelihoods in jeopardy".