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A flawed lockdown: Britain faces new virus restrictions

LONDON – The chocolate shops and stationery stores are still bustling as usual. Universities hold direct lectures. And workers are crowded in several offices and factories, often nothing more than a bottle of joint hand sanitizer to protect them from the spread of coronavirus.

In the UK on Thursday, Lockdown 2.0’s early hours, as the local papers call it, look a lot like a lockout.

The situation has shown great troubles for European governments, due to a second wave of coronaviruses that strike, as they try to put the genie back into the jar after months of encouraging people to rush back to the office. and pubs.

Since spring, when lawmakers have had little dissent ordering people to stay at home, the political consensus surrounding the door lock measures has collapsed. As a result, the new British shutdown rules were removed with loopholes and companies publicly put in place relatively tolerant restrictions. At the same time, people and scientists are also concerned about the virus spreading without control during the winter.

Steve Gremo, a software developer in Kent, southeast England, said: “It’s like a lock in name only. “In March, it looked like the country completely ceased operations. It didn’t match the vibe this morning at all. “

The latest closure – according to which pubs, restaurants and other unnecessary stores are closed, but schools, universities and many workplaces – are expected to end on the 2nd December. But many scientists suspect that four weeks will have clear limitations. enough to kill the virus, or the government will do enough to improve its exposure tracking system to allow officials to track the spread of the virus for the remainder of the winter.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government suggested that some restrictions on employment and social communication would be maintained much longer than previously admitted.

In announcing new lockdowns this weekend, Johnson said the government would expand its worker assistance program – where it pays 80% of workers’ salaries – only until the restrictions run out. Effective December 2.

The government changed its stance on Thursday, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announcing that the program will continue until the end of March as the economic losses of the pandemic will persist after the second batch.

The opposition Labor Party attacked the government’s hesitancy to offer assistance, saying it caused deep certainty to businesses and unnecessary layoffs.

For Mr. Johnson, the imposition of a second close is quite a turning point. Just 10 days before announcing his plans on Saturday night, he described a national lockdown as “the pinnacle of absurdity”.

He continued to face political pressure from liberal and pro-business lawmakers in his Conservative Party, more than 30 of whom voted against new restrictions at Congress on Wednesday. Measures are passed with the help of Labor legislators.

Despite skepticism from scientists, Mr. Johnson insisted on Thursday that the new restrictions will work.

“It’s not springtime again,” he said. “Four weeks is enough for these measures to make a real impact.”

But busy subways, highways, shops and workplaces that popped up across the UK on Thursday made it clear that companies were reluctant to take the same precautions. did in the first lock. A large chain of stationery, claiming their services were needed, remained open, raising an eyebrow.

At a chocolate shop in north London, Ashli ​​Long, a supervisor, said students and other customers were still rushing into the store as usual. A local council official visited on Thursday and said the store was deemed unnecessary and therefore needed to be closed.

But the shop owners planned to refuse, Ms. Long said, and reopen on Friday. She said she was anxious to pick up the virus from the store and take it home to her mother, who is being treated for breast cancer.

“We just feel like we don’t have any options right now,” she said. “If the government were to put in place rules that people can follow in the first place, we wouldn’t be in the situation we are now.”

With the crowded streets on Thursday, she added, “I don’t see the virus going away anytime soon.”

The localization restrictions previously imposed by the Johnson government have shown signs of a decrease in the increase in infections, the scientists said, with the number of cases. New daily was reported to have stalled at around 23,000 in recent days. However, the death toll continued to rise, with nearly 500 people recorded across the UK on Wednesday, the highest level since mid-May.

When coronavirus first increased in the spring, the government’s goal of asking people to stay at home was clear: Officials need time to build inspection programs, the scientists say. track down contacts, learn how to treat viruses, and buy enough protective equipment to keep doctors. and safety nurse.

However, Mr. Johnson’s goal for the second round of close-off is narrower, with officials pointing out that mass overload at hospitals is inevitable if they don’t impose new restrictions. .

“I have no doubt that closing will push cases further down, but the problem is what will happen,” said Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, “I have no doubts that closing will push cases further down, but the problem is what will happen next.” Referring to summer’s low infection rates, he said, “It won’t be back as it was in August.”

Professor Hunter said it is likely to revert to more localized restrictions, although he says their imposition of them has been restricted so far this fall has limited their use. Scientists have urged the government to fix problems with their contact tracking system, known as Checks and Traces, which are currently overwhelmed with cases.

“Four weeks is not enough to fix Test and Trace,” said Professor Hunter. “It will not happen.”

While Britons voluntarily stopped socializing ahead of the first shutdown in March, they appeared to have sped up before the second, with online restaurant bookings up this week compared to the same period last year. .

Routes and airports were busy on Wednesday night as some people rushed to their homes for Monday or took a vacation before restrictions went into effect. Some pubs offer deep discount beers to empty before locking their doors.

Many people worry about the repeated lock and open cycles during winter. Just a few months ago, the government subsidized restaurant meals and started a campaign to encourage people to return to their offices.

“The government kept saying to us, ‘Yes, go back to work, contribute to society, we need to get the economy up’, and then, ‘Oh no, wait, too much , quickly lock everything up, ” said Mr. Gremo, software developer. “They’re trying to walk in a straight line but instead they’re swinging between one of the poles.”

Andy Lewis, who also lives in Kent, said the streets were much busier than the level of leaving school, going to work and necessary shopping alone.

“Looks like the instructions weren’t very clear, or people just ignored it,” he said. Referring to a famous chain of coffee shops, he added, “This morning, I got an email from Costa telling me they were still open to take away, but the government was asking us not to come out. away from home unless it’s necessary? “

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