Tighter coronavirus restrictions imposed in London as cases mount
Published: Dec 16, 2020 05:08 PM

Photo taken on Dec. 5, 2020 shows the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain.(Photo: Xinhua)

London on Wednesday moved into the highest level of coronavirus restrictions in an effort to control rising infection rates, dealing another blow to hospitality venues before Christmas.

The British capital's move into "Tier 3" means theaters, pubs and restaurants will have to close, although takeaway food outlets can still operate. 

People cannot now socialize with anyone not from their household or support bubble, but can meet in groups of up to six in public places outside.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned on Monday that London had seen a "sharp rise" in daily cases and hospital admissions.

Cases were doubling every seven days in some areas, Hancock added, ­sounding a more downbeat note after hopes of a ­breakthrough were raised last week with the start of a vaccination program.

Concerns have also been raised about higher rates of infection among secondary school children aged 11-18, leading to increased testing in the worst-hit areas in and around London.

England only emerged from a four-week lockdown earlier this month, and the government introduced a targeted regional system of tiers to try to cut ­infection rates.

London had been placed in "Tier 2," which means nonessential shops and services can open, but it currently has one of the highest infection rates in the country.

The government is under pressure to review its Christmas plans, under which there will be a five-day relaxation in the rules to allow free travel and for up to three households to meet.

The British Medical Journal (BMJ) and the Health Service Journal (HSJ) on Tuesday warned the plan could lead to the state-run National Health Service being overwhelmed.

"We believe the government is about to blunder into another major error that will cost many lives," the BMJ and HSJ said in their second joint editorial in a century.

Britain has been one of the worst ­affected countries in the pandemic, registering nearly 65,000 deaths from just under 1.9 million positive cases, according to government figures.

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