UK PM Boris Johnson locks down England as COVID-19 cases pass 1 million

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a press conference in 10 Downing Street, London, Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020 where he is expected to announce new restrictions to help combat a coronavirus surge. (AP)
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Updated 31 October 2020

UK PM Boris Johnson locks down England as COVID-19 cases pass 1 million

  • Lockdown starts just after midnight on Thursday morning
  • United Kingdom has the biggest official death toll in Europe from COVID-19

LONDON: Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered England back into a national lockdown after the United Kingdom passed the milestone of one million COVID-19 cases and a second wave of infections threatened to overwhelm the health service.
The United Kingdom, which has the biggest official death toll in Europe from COVID-19, is grappling with more than 20,000 new coronavirus cases a day and scientists have warned the “worst case” scenario of 80,000 dead could be exceeded.
Johnson, at a hastily convened news conference in Downing Street after news of a lockdown leaked to local media, said that the one-month lockdown across England would kick in at a minute past midnight on Thursday morning and last until Dec. 2.
In some of the most onerous restrictions in Britain’s peacetime history, people will only be allowed to leave home for specific reasons such as education, work, exercise, shopping for essentials and medicines or caring for the vulnerable.
“Now is the time to take action because there is no alternative,” Johnson said, flanked by his chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, and his chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance.
The government will revive its emergency coronavirus wage subsidy scheme to ensure workers who are temporarily laid off during a new England-wide lockdown receive 80% of their pay.
Essential shops, schools, and universities will remain open, Johnson said. Pubs and restaurants will be shut apart from for takeaways. All non-essential retail will close.
Johnson’s imposition of stricter curbs came after scientists warned the outbreak was going in the wrong direction and that action was needed to halt the spread of the virus if families were to have any hope of gathering at Christmas.
Johnson was criticized by political opponents for moving too slowly into the first national lockdown, which stretched from March 23 to July 4. He fell ill with COVID in late March and was hospitalized in early April.
The measures bring England into alignment with France and Germany by imposing nationwide restrictions almost as severe as the ones that drove the global economy this year into its deepest recession in generations.
So far the United Kingdom has reported 46,555 COVID-19 deaths — defined as those dying within 28 days of a positive test. A broader death measure of those with COVID-19 on their death certificates gives the toll as 58,925.
The United Kingdom has the world’s fifth largest official death toll, after the United States, Brazil, India and Mexico, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.


New Zealand regulator charges 13 parties over White Island eruption tragedy

Updated 49 sec ago

New Zealand regulator charges 13 parties over White Island eruption tragedy

  • 22 people were killed in last year's surprise eruption on the White Island

WELLINGTON: New Zealand’s workplace regulator will file charges against 13 parties following an investigation into a volcanic eruption on White Island in 2019 which killed 22 people, state broadcaster 1NEWS said on Monday.
A surprise eruption on the White Island, also known by its Maori name of Whakaari, on Dec 9 last year, killed 22 people and injured dozens.
Majority of them were tourists who were part of a cruise ship that was traveling around New Zealand and were from countries like Australia, the United States and Malaysia. There were 47 people on the island when the volcano erupted.
Worksafe, New Zealand’s primary regulator for workplace related incidents, will charge 10 parties under the Health and Safety at Work Act which has a maximum fine of NZ$1.5 million ($1.06 million), the report said.
Three individuals would be charged as directors or individuals who were required to exercise due diligence to ensure the company meets its health and safety obligations. These charges each carry a maximum fine of $300,000, it added.
WorkSafe is not naming those charged as they may seek suppression orders in their first appearance in court on Dec 15, 1NEWS reported.
The coroner is conducting a separate inquiry into the incident. A coronial investigation is automatically triggered in the event of a sudden, violent or unnatural death.
At the time of the eruption questions were raised why people were allowed on the island, a popular destination for day-trippers, given there was reportedly a heightened risk of an eruption.