Britain to impose new virus curbs as WHO issues grim warning

The British government announced fresh steps on Tuesday to try to stop a coronavirus surge in England, as the World Health Organization warned that new cases worldwide soared to record levels last week.

The tally of 1,998,897 infections was “the highest number of reported cases in a single week since the beginning of the epidemic”, the WHO said, adding that the number of deaths fell compared with the previous week.

The death toll in the United States passed another dismal milestone on Tuesday, soaring beyond 200,000 as cases approached seven million in the world’s worst-affected country.

The ramped-up response in Britain followed warnings that the country could see an explosion of cases and deaths if it failed to take decisive action.

From Thursday, English pubs, bars and other venues will be required to close at 10:00 pm. Food and drink outlets will also be restricted to table service.

Some businesses have criticised the move, saying it will inflict more suffering on an already beleaguered industry.

But customers outside cafes in central London were broadly supportive of the new rules if it meant avoiding another lockdown.

“It isn’t all about the money,” Francesca Galluzzo, an operations manager, told AFP. “It should be about people’s lives.”

Britain has also shelved plans to allow fans to return to sporting venues in England next month and boosted fines for rule-breakers in broad tightening of restrictions. (James Pheby with Nina Larson in Geneva and AFP bureaus)