LONDON (Reuters) – Tighter COVID-19 lockdowns could be imposed on London and northern England by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government on Thursday though anger over the economic, health and social pain was growing.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock will address parliament at around 1030 GMT: he is expected to announce changes to the government’s patchwork of three-tier local lockdowns.
London and Manchester are in focus as the outbreak spreads.
Asked on Sky news if Manchester and parts of Lancashire county would be placed into tier three, the highest level of local lockdown, junior business minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “Matt Hancock is going to make a statement to parliament as to where we are at but you can clearly see the numbers.”
Zahawi said the government was also speaking to London Mayor Sadiq Khan who has called for tougher lockdowns in the capital where 11 boroughs are seeing more than 100 new cases a week per 100,000 people.
The worst hit areas of London are Richmond, Hackney, the City of London, Ealing, Redbridge and Harrow. The British capital, Europe’s richest city, is currently at the “medium” alert level so could be moved to “high”.
In areas in the high alert level, socialising outside households or support bubbles is not allowed indoors though work can continue and schools continue to operate.
Manchester is currently at the “high” alert level so could be moved to “very high” – a level which forbids socialising, forces pubs and bars to close and prohibits travel outside the area.
While the government says it must act to tackle the swiftly accelerating second wave of the outbreak, there is growing concern about the economic and health costs of the poverty that such lockdowns are inflicting.
The United Kingdom faces a “period of destitution” in which families “can’t put shoes on” children, the government’s former homelessness adviser said.
“Are we actually asking people in places like Liverpool to go out and prostitute themselves, so that they could put food on the table?” Louise Casey told the BBC.
“There’s this sense from Downing Street and from Westminster that people will make do. Well, they weren’t coping before COVID,” she said.