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UK PM Johnson to speak on COVID-19 as anger mounts towards curbs

Wed, 30th Sep 2020 08:10

* UK PM Johnson to speak on COVID-19

* Anger rises over restrictions

* Parliament to debate measures

* UK Q2 GDP collapses by record 19.8%

LONDON, Sept 30 (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Boris
Johnson will hold a news conference on COVID-19 on Wednesday as
he grapples with a swiftly spreading second wave of the novel
coronavirus outbreak and growing anger in his own party over
restrictions imposed on citizens.

Britain, which has the worst official death toll in Europe,
reported 7,143 new cases of coronavirus on Tuesday, the highest
single figure to date, and 71 deaths, the worst daily toll since
July.

Johnson, who has had to apologise after muddling local
lockdown rules, is facing growing anger within his own
Conservative Party over the most severe restrictions in
peacetime history that are destroying swathes of the economy.

"The price we will not pay is that we will not surrender
parliamentary democracy and the rule of law in order to fight
this virus - these things are too important," said Steve Baker,
one prominent rebel lawmaker in the party.

"We need prior approval of measures, major measures on a
national scale and indeed a regional scale which take away
people's liberties," Baker told the BBC ahead of a debate in the
House of Commons on Johnson's COVID-19 measures.

Large swathes of the United Kingdom and tens of millions of
citizens are subject to local restrictions brought in to try to
slow the second wave of COVID-19 infections. The country has
reported more than 42,072 deaths from the virus - the world's
fifth highest number of fatalities.

As Johnson grapples with both COVID-19 and dissent in party
ranks, the economic damage was laid bare: the United Kingdom's
economy shrank by a record 19.8% in the second quarter of 2020 -
more than any other major advanced economy.

The United Kingdom is borrowing more than at any time since
World War Two while unemployment is rising and some businesses
have complained that Johnson's restrictions are killing their
livelihoods.

Johnson, who fell gravely ill himself earlier this year with
COVID-19, says the virus must be brought under control otherwise
the death and economic damage it will inflict will be much more
serious.

But a series of missteps by the government, a lack of
enforcement and growing fatigue with the regulations have
prompted growing unease - and even some confusion - over the
COVID-19 restrictions.
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge and Kate Holton, editing by
Estelle Shirbon)

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