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London has England’s highest COVID-19 rate, raising fears of tighter restrictions

LONDON (Reuters) -London had the highest prevalence of COVID-19 cases in the week to December 6, Public Health England (PHE) said on Thursday, raising the prospect that the capital will be moved into the strictest level of restrictions in the coming days.

Case rates per 100,000 people in London stood at 191.8, PHE said, putting the city ahead of regions in the highest level of tier 3 restrictions, such as the West Midlands, where cases had fallen to 158.4 per 100,000 from 196.8 a week earlier.

Under the tier system brought in when a month-long national lockdown in England ended on Dec. 2, all hospitality except for takeaways must close in areas in the highest level.

The capital was originally placed in tier 2 avoiding the more restrictive category into which large swathes of England were placed.

“None of us want our city to move into tier 3,” London Mayor Sadiq Khan said. “Please continue to follow the rules – lives and livelihoods truly are dependent on it.”

Britain has Europe’s highest death toll from COVID-19, with more than 62,000 fatalities, and official data on Thursday showed that the economic recovery from the pandemic had almost ground to halt because of the impact of restrictions which barred people from socialising in pubs and restaurants.

PHE said cases at a national level had plateaued, and the rate of infection had fallen in central and northeastern England, areas which had been placed in tier 3.

There has been discontent about the tier system from lawmakers in the ruling Conservative party, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson had promised it would be reviewed on Dec. 16, holding out the possibility some areas would move to lower categories.

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