Britain on Sunday became the ninth country with more than 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases. According to data compiled by the John Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center, as of early Sunday, Britain had 1,014,794 infections and 46,645 deaths.
After resisting mounting calls for weeks to impose a national lockdown as COVID-19 cases were rising, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson Saturday joined his counterparts in France, Germany and Belgium in ordering a nationwide shutdown.
New national lockdown restrictions will go into effect across England on Thursday and last for a month. Wales announced a lockdown last week, and Scottish leaders say the next few days will be critical for Scotland to avoid a lockdown.
However, schools and universities as well as courts are to stay open. The construction industry will also be allowed to operate. There will, however, be no household mixing, and nonessential stores as well as pubs and restaurants are to close. Employers will be asked to encourage their employees to work from home where possible.
The rising tide of new coronavirus cases worldwide is forcing leaders elsewhere to consider new lockdown measures to contain an increase in infections.
On Friday, Belgium imposed a partial lockdown aimed at controlling the pandemic that has hit the country harder than any other in the 27-nation European Union, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
Belgium has a high ratio of infection, 1,600 cases per 100,000 people. In comparison, Spain and Italy have ratios less than a third of that. In addition, hospitals in Belgium have almost reached capacity.
French President Emmanuel Macron announced a nationwide month long lockdown, effective Friday, with restaurants, bars, cafes and other nonessential businesses closed. Citizens can leave their homes only for work, shopping and doctor appointments.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced a set of similar measures in her own month long lockdown, which takes effect Monday. In addition to restaurants and bars, all gyms, theaters and opera houses will be closed under Merkel’s order, while most businesses, shops and hair salons will be allowed to remain open.
Schools in both nations will remain open during their respective lockdowns.
European countries, meanwhile, are calling on the global community to grant the World Health Organization greater authority to independently investigate outbreaks after the pandemic exposed the agency’s deficiencies.