A new three-tiered COVID-19 local lockdown system has been unveiled by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday, which will see stricter social distancing measures applied in English towns and cities that have a high rate of new infections.
The United Kingdom has seen a rapid surge in new coronavirus disease cases over recent weeks, and the prime minister said that it was necessary to standardize local measures, following the government's implementation of the so-called rule of six, which limits social gatherings to no more than six people, at the national level.
"Just as we've simplified our national rules with the rule of six, we will now simplify and standardize our local rules by introducing a three-tiered system of local COVID alert levels in England, set at medium, high, and very high," the prime minister said.
According to Johnson, the majority of English towns and cities will be placed under the medium alert level, which has the current national advice as the baseline.
"The medium alert level will cover most of the country and will consist of the current national measures, this includes the rule of six and the closure of hospitality at 22:00 [21:00 GMT]," the prime minister said.
The high alert level will be enforced in the majority of areas that are currently under local level restrictions, which includes Nottinghamshire, East and West Cheshire, and areas of High Peak, the prime minister said.
"The high alert reflects the interventions in many local areas at the moment. This primarily aims to reduce household-to-household transmission by preventing all mixing between different households or support bubbles indoors. In these areas, the rule of six will continue to apply outdoors where it is harder for the virus to spread, in public spaces as well as private gardens," Johnson remarked.
The very high level will apply to areas where there is a rapid rate of new infections, such as the Merseyside area that encompasses the city of Liverpool, the prime minister added.
"The very high alert level will apply where transmission rates are rising most rapidly and where the NHS could soon be under unbearable pressure without further restrictions. In these areas, the government will set a baseline of prohibiting social mixing indoors and in private gardens, and I'm sorry to say, closing pubs and bars," Johnson said.
Merseyside will enter the very high alert level on Wednesday, the prime minister stated, adding that government officials had consulted with the local authorities to agree that gyms, leisure centers, betting shops, adult gaming centers, and casinos will also close from this date.
The UK is currently battling its second wave of the coronavirus disease pandemic, and 12,872 new positive tests were registered by the Department of Health and Social Care on Sunday. On this date, the country's case total stood in excess of 603,700 and the death toll stood at 42,825.