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UK’s Boris Johnson warns of more lockdown measures as virus soars

Pan Pylas
Associated Press

London — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned Sunday that more onerous lockdown restrictions in England are likely in the coming weeks as the country reels from a new coronavirus variant that has pushed infection rates to their highest recorded levels.

Johnson, though, insisted he has “no doubt” that schools are safe and urged parents to send their children back into the classroom in areas of England where they can. Unions representing teachers have called for schools to turn to remote learning for at least a couple of weeks more due to the new variant, which scientists have said is up to 70% more contagious.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks at a press conference in 10 Downing Street, London. Johnson has warned that more onerous lockdown restrictions in England are likely as the country reels from a new variant of the coronavirus that has seen infection rates soar to their highest recorded levels. (Heathcliff O'Malley/Pool via AP)

The U.K. is in the midst of an acute outbreak, recording more than 50,000 new coronavirus infections a day over the past six days. On Sunday, it notched up another 54,990 cases, down slightly from the previous day’s daily record of 57,725. The country also recorded another 454 virus-related deaths to take the total to 75,024. According to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University, the U.K. is alternating with Italy as the worst-hit European nation.

“We are entirely reconciled to do what it takes to get the virus under control, that may involve tougher measures in the weeks ahead,” Johnson said in an interview with the BBC. “Obviously there are a range of tougher measures that we would have to consider.”

Johnson conceded that school closures, curfews and the total banning of household mixing could be on the agenda for areas under the most stress.

London and southeast England are facing extremely high levels of new infections and there is speculation that restrictions there will have to be tightened to bring the virus under control. In some parts of the British capital and its surrounding areas, there are more than 1,000 cases per 100,000 people.

Johnson’s Conservative government is using a tiered coronavirus restrictions system. Most of England is already at the highest Tier 4 level, which involves the closure of shops not selling nonessential items and places like gyms and recreation centers as well as a stay-at-home instruction.

One area the U.K. has moved quickly is on the vaccination front.