London to go into stricter lockdown as Covid-19 surges in Europe
City to shift to 'high' alert tonight as WHO urges European govts to 'step up'
LONDON: The world's international financial capital will enter a tighter Covid-19 lockdown from midnight today as Prime Minister Boris Johnson seeks to tackle a swiftly accelerating second coronavirus wave.
The respiratory pandemic, which emerged in China last year and has killed over a million people worldwide, is spreading in most parts of Britain, whose official death toll of 43,155 is the highest in Europe.
Anger, though, is rising over the economic, social and health costs of the biggest curtailment of freedoms since wartime.
One former government adviser warned that some people would have trouble clothing their children soon.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that London, which has a population of nine million, as well as the adjacent, heavily populated county of Essex, would be put on "high" alert level, up from "medium", at one minute past midnight.
The main impact of the move to "high" is that people cannot meet other households socially in any indoor setting, for example at home or in a restaurant. Travel should be reduced where possible, Mr Hancock said.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said yesterday that imposing tighter controls to curb the Covid-19 contagion could save hundreds of thousands of lives across Europe before February as the continent battles an exponential surge in infections.
Urging governments to "step up" swiftly to contain a second wave of the pandemic, WHO's European director Hans Kluge said the current situation was, "more than ever, pandemic times for Europe".
New infections are hitting 100,000 daily in Europe, and the region has just registered the highest weekly incidence of Covid-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with almost 700,000 cases reported.
"The fall (autumn) and winter surge continues to unfold in Europe, with exponential increases in daily cases and matching percentage increases in daily deaths," Dr Kluge told an online media briefing.
"It's time to step up. The message to governments is: Don't hold back with relatively small actions to avoid the painful damaging actions we saw in the first round (in March and April)."
Dr Kluge cited projections from what he described as "reliable epidemiological models" and said they were "not optimistic" for the European region.
"These models indicate that prolonged relaxing policies could propel - by January 2021 - daily mortality at levels four to five times higher than what we recorded in April," he said. - REUTERS