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UK puts brakes on easing of restrictions amid second-wave fears


Packed out: People enjoy the sunny weather at Bournemouth beach. Photo: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

Packed out: People enjoy the sunny weather at Bournemouth beach. Photo: Steve Parsons/PA Wire


Packed out: People enjoy the sunny weather at Bournemouth beach. Photo: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has put the brakes on the easing of lockdown measures and trial crowds at Glorious Goodwood this weekend have been cancelled as the UK's chief medical officer warned the country may have reached the limit on resuming normal life.

Mr Johnson said he was postponing planned changes due today as he said it was right to heed the "warning light on the dashboard" amid concerns of a second wave.

Mr Johnson told a Downing Street press conference that wedding receptions of up to 30 people and reopening casinos, bowling alleys and skating rinks would not now be allowed for at least another fortnight.

And pilot schemes to allow spectators at snooker, cricket and horse racing events this weekend were postponed, along with plans for indoor performances and "close contact" beauty treatments.

Professor Chris Whitty, England's chief medical officer, said it may not now be possible to ease lockdown further, adding the country had "probably reached near the limit or the limits" of what can be done to reopen society. It came a day after restrictions were tightened in parts of the north, with people from different households barred from meeting indoors.

Mr Johnson said it was time to "squeeze that brake pedal" on reopening the economy amid rising fears the UK was on the brink of a second wave of the pandemic and that the country should not be complacent.

"As we see these rises around the world, we can't fool ourselves that we are exempt," he said. And he revealed his latest public health slogan as he urged people to stick to the principles of "hands, face, space... and get a test".

Meanwhile, an eminent public health scientist has said herd immunity is the only long-term solution to Covid-19, but the idea has wrongly become taboo.

The concept "provokes hostility and controversy" but it must be revisited, says Raj Bhopal, emeritus professor of public health at Edinburgh University.

Herd immunity is when enough people are resistant to a disease - through vaccination or exposure - that it can no longer significantly spread among the rest of the population.

In an article in the journal 'Public Health in Practice', he argues: "We cannot, unfortunately, pin all hopes on vaccines, as they may only work for a short time, especially if the virus evolves new strains.

"A vaccine that is effective, proven to be safe, that is manufacturable in billions of doses and available globally is unlikely this year, and may take years, even decades.

"If safe and effective vaccines and life-saving preventive and therapeutic medications are not found, lengthy lockdowns prove impossible, and the pandemic does not disappear spontaneously, population immunity is the only long-term solution." (© Daily Telegraph, London)