PM Boris Johnson announces halt to easing lockdown in England

A man and his children wear masks in Hanoi Vietnam

"On Saturday August 1, you'll remember we had hoped to reopen a number of the higher-risk settings that had remained closed and today I'm saying we're postponing those changes for at least a fortnight".

"With those numbers creeping up, our assessment is that we should squeeze that brake pedal... in order to keep the virus under control", Boris Johnson said during the Downing Street briefing.

The decision to row back on the easing of lockdown came after the Prime Minister was shown data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Wednesday night which revealed a rise in Covid-19 infections. Limited crowds were due to be allowed attend a small number of sporting events across England this weekend, but Johnson has pulled the plug on those plans following a spike in coronavirus cases. Indoor performances will not resume. Households there have now been banned from meeting indoors to curb the spread of the virus.

It follows a spike in coronavirus cases which has led to general restrictions being reintroduced to some part of northern England.

On Thursday evening it was announced that people from different households in Greater Manchester, parts of east Lancashire and West Yorkshire would no longer be allowed to meet each other inside their homes or in gardens.

"It is taxes that ultimately pay for the NHS and, if we don't get our economy moving more quickly, we will struggle to do that in future".

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"But we have to be realistic about this".

Mr Johnson said that, while most people are following the rules, there will be a "greater police presence" to ensure the public is adhering to requirements around face coverings and stressed that local authorities can close down premises and cancel events which are not following the guidance.

Mr Johnson said the pause will go ahead as planned, adding that medical experts will be explaining more about the decision later.

Opposition politicians supported the latest move but criticized the government for announcing the restrictions in a tweet from Hancock late Thursday, just two hours before they came into force at midnight.

"I know that the steps we are taking will be a real blow to many people, to everyone whose wedding plans have been disrupted or who can not now celebrate Eid in the way that they would wish and I'm really, really sorry about that but we can not simply take the risk", he said.

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