UK police could break up Christmas gatherings, warns minister

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Police could break up large family gatherings at Christmas, Britain’s housing minister Robert Jenrick warned, as he said it was right that they enforce coronavirus rules on socialising.

“Well that’s not something that anyone would want to see but it’s right that everybody follows the law and obviously the police have to do what’s necessary to enforce it,” he said on Times Radio when asked about Christmas celebrations.

Britain will do everything it can to avoid ordering a second national COVID-19 lockdown because it believes it will do more harm than good to the country, a minister said on Thursday.

Coronavirus cases are surging in every region of Britain, which suffered the worst death toll in Europe and the deepest contraction of any G7 leading economy after it delayed a lockdown when the first wave of the pandemic hit in March.

But as France and Germany ordered new national closures, Jenrick said the British government’s clear policy was to use the tough local restrictions that were recently imposed on swathes of northern England.

“The judgement of the government today is that a blanket national lockdown is not appropriate, would do more harm than good,” he told Times Radio.

“Although it does have some advantages, it also brings with it great harm to people’s lives and livelihoods, real damage to the economy … and a lot of harm to broader health and wellbeing.”

The government’s approach to tackling the virus is kept under review, however, Jenrick said.

After a lull in the summer, the virus started to spread again in September and an Imperial College study published on Thursday showed cases doubling every nine days, with nearly 100,000 people infected in England each day..

Some scientists say more drastic restrictions should be brought in but the government is battling to keep the economy open after output plunged by 20% in the second quarter and public debt rose above 2 trillion pounds.

Steven Riley, author of the Imperial College study, told BBC Radio that Britain should act sooner rather than later and David Nabarro, a WHO special envoy, said he was surprised and disturbed by how quickly the virus was surging across Europe.

The main concern now, he said, was to prevent hospitals from filling up with COVID-19 cases because that would lead to a rise in unrelated deaths. British data showed there were 9,520 patients in hospital with COVID, the highest level since May 14.

“That’s where I think that the big risk lies now,” Nabarro told the BBC.

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