“If it is possible for people to work from home, then we’d encourage them to do so,” Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said on Sky News on Tuesday. “There is going to be a shift in emphasis.” From Thursday, hospitality venues across England will be required to close by 10 p.m. and to limit all transactions to table service only, as ministers clamp down on socializing. Officials will also stop moves to allow crowds to return to live sporting venues.
The measures represent a reversal of efforts to re-open the economy after the first national lockdown shuttered social and commercial activity in March, sparking the deepest U.K. recession in more than 100 years. Over the summer, Johnson’s government encouraged the public to go back to work, spend in shops and paid for discounts to incentivize people to eat out in pubs and restaurants. But the resurgence of the virus has forced officials to halt these efforts and bring back restrictions.
Figures released Monday showed 1,261 people in England hospitalized with Covid-19, up from 782 a week earlier, with 154 of them on ventilators, up from 88. The chief medical officers for the four U.K. nations recommended the coronavirus alert status should rise one notch to Level 4, meaning cases are “now rising rapidly and probably exponentially.”
While the economic hit would likely be less severe than the previous lockdown, major restrictions would also add to the argument for more action from the Bank of England, which said last week that a resurgence in the virus is likely to slow the U.K.’s rebound. Officials’ current projections, which see the economy recovering pre-crisis levels next year, are based on an easing of virus uncertainty and avoiding a nationwide lockdown.