A new month-long lockdown for England was announced by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson after being warned that a resurgent coronavirus outbreak would overwhelm hospitals in weeks without tough action.
Johnson made a sudden about-face on the day the United Kingdom passed 1 million confirmed Covid-19 cases and confirmed that strict restrictions on business and daily life would begin on Thursday and last until December 2.
He said that "no responsible prime minister" could ignore the grim figures at a televised news conference.
"We could see deaths running at several thousand a day in this country unless we act," said Johnson, who was hospitalized earlier this year for a serious case of Covid-19.
Bars and restaurants can only offer take-out under the new restrictions, non-essential shops must close and people will only be able to leave home for a brief list of reasons, including exercise. Activities ranging from haircuts to foreign vacations must be put on hold once again.
Unlike during the first three-month lockdown in the United Kingdom earlier this year, schools, universities, building sites, and manufacturing companies will remain open.
As in other European countries, after lockdown measures were eased in the summer and people began to return to workplaces, schools, universities, and social life, virus cases in the UK began to climb. On Friday, the Office of National Statistics estimated that in the week to October 23, 1 in 100 people in England, well over half a million, had the virus.
Johnson had hoped that a set of regional constraints introduced earlier in October would be sufficient to push down the numbers. However, government scientific advisers predict that demand for hospital beds will exceed capacity by the first week of December on the current trajectory of the outbreak, even if temporary hospitals set up during the first peek of the virus are reopened.