NEWS DIGEST 20.09.2020: Britain prepares for new coronavirus restrictions before second wave hits

Today’s news stories come to you via Google News. The UK’s health secretary, Matt Hancock, has warned the public to heed coronavirus restrictions as the country braces for a possible resurgence of the virus, warning that failure to obey the rules could lead to tougher restrictions, BBC News reports. The health secretary told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show the country was facing a “tipping point and we have a choice”. “If everybody follows the rules then we can avoid further national lockdown.” Britain’s government have introduced fines of GBP £10,000 (USD $12,916.50) for rule-breakers and prime minister Boris Johnson is considering a ban on households mixing, and reducing opening hours for pubs, weeks after such restrictions were eased and businesses allowed to return to normal trading hours – Hancock: Follow Covid rules or they will get tougher (BBC News)

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The head of the UK’s National Health Service’s Track and Trace programme initiative for tackling the pandemic has penned a letter in The Sun urging people not to go for COVID-19 tests if they are not showing any symptoms. Dido Harding said that testing is only effective for those who believe they have symptoms, such as a persistent cough or loss of the sense of smell, and that people who have been in contact with someone carrying the virus would still need to self-isolate, regardless of the outcome of any test. The Track and Trace programme aims to offer 500,000 tests daily by mid-October, Harding wrote – DIDO HARDING Please don’t book a Covid-19 test if you’re not showing symptoms (The Sun)

The Times (Sunday edition) has warned that Britain can ill afford a second national COVID-19 lockdown with the economic and social impact it will have, weeks after the main lockdown that began in March 2020 is being wound down. As PM Johnson holds emergency meetings this weekend to mull over a new set of rules as the country awaits an almost inevitable resurgence of the virus, the newspaper criticised him for being too slow to address the issue earlier this year, writing: “There can now be little doubt that the British government got the first national lockdown wrong. The prime minister took too long to face up to the scale of the challenge, the restrictions came too late and the nation saw normal life put on hold for longer than in other comparable countries.” – The country cannot afford a second national lockdown (The Sunday Times)

Lastly, BBC News reports on the main issue of prime minister Boris Johnson’s plan on bringing in new restrictions as the rate of infections in England has doubled in the past few days. The government recently brought in the ‘Rule of Six’ ban on gatherings of more than six individuals, indoors or outdoors. Ministers are understood to be looking at a ban on households mixing, and reducing opening hours for pubs. Parts of the country, such as the city of Bolton, are already experiencing localised lockdowns, affecting 13.5 million people. Former government adviser Prof Neil Ferguson said new measures were needed “sooner rather than later”. The scientist, whose advice was crucial to the decision to go into lockdown in March, said: “If we leave it another two to four weeks, we will be back at [infection] levels we were seeing more like mid-March. “That’s clearly going to cause deaths because people will be hospitalised,” he told the BBC – Covid: PM considering new restrictions amid second coronavirus wave (BBC News)

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