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UPDATE 6-UK's Johnson shuts pubs in parts of England with new COVID curbs

Mon, 12th Oct 2020 08:13

* Johnson tightens restrictions on some areas

* Pubs and bars told to close in very high risk areas

* Can only stay open if operate as restaurants

* Gyms and casinos to be closed in top alert areas

* Anger rises at economic cost of restrictions
(Adds detail about pubs operating as restaurants)

By Paul Sandle and William James

LIVERPOOL/LONDON, Oct 12 (Reuters) - British Prime Minister
Boris Johnson imposed a tiered system of further restrictions on
parts of England on Monday, including shutting pubs, to curb an
acceleration in COVID-19 cases, though anger was rising at the
cost of the curtailment of freedoms.

Johnson announced a new three-tiered system in an attempt to
standardise a patchwork of often complicated and confusing
restrictions imposed across England. Lawmakers will vote on the
move on Tuesday.

The lockdowns will include shutting pubs and bars in areas
placed in the "very high" alert level from Wednesday. The other
alert levels in the new system are "medium" and "high".

So far, Merseyside in northwest England - which includes the
city of Liverpool - is the only area classified at the "very
high" level. Gyms, leisure centres, casinos,
betting shops and adult gaming centres there will also close,
Johnson said.

"We must act to save lives," Johnson told parliament, adding
that he did not want another national lockdown and that he
understood the frustrations of those chafing at the "repressions
of liberty".

"If we let the virus rip, then the bleak mathematics dictate
that we would suffer not only an intolerable death toll from
COVID, but we would put such a huge strain on our NHS (National
Health Service) with an uncontrolled second spike that our
doctors and nurses would simply be unable to devote themselves
to other treatments."

"NARROW PATH"

Health officials say the freshest data showed infections
were rising across the north of England and in some more
southerly areas too, while the virus was creeping up age bands
towards the elderly from those aged 16-29 years.

Manchester intensive care consultant Jane Eddleston said 30%
of critical care beds were taken up with COVID-19 patients and
this was starting to affect healthcare for others.

"This is not how we want to live our lives but this is the
narrow path we have to tread between the social and economic
trauma of a full lockdown and massive human and indeed economic
cost of an uncontained epidemic," Johnson said.

"The weeks and months ahead will continue to be difficult
and will test the mettle of this country," he said.

But as millions of people across the United Kingdom grapple
with restrictions, the hospitality sector says it is being
brought to its knees by the government.

Karen Strickland, landlady of The Grapes pub in Liverpool,
said their income was already down by 70% with the current
enforced countrywide closing time of 10 p.m., and the
government's support scheme help was not enough.

"It's absolutely horrendous," she said, adding it made no
sense to single out pubs.

Under the new restrictions, however, pubs that serve a main
lunchtime or evening meal will be allowed to stay open, though
they will only be able to serve alcohol as part of such a meal.

Some pub owners had been contemplating legal action over the
move to close pubs, saying Johnson had not produced the evidence
to explain why they were being targetted.

"The plan is on hold," Sacha Lord, a night club and events
operator, told Reuters. "We are still going to get the troops
ready because obviously things are changing on a daily basis...
We are not out of the zone yet."
(Additional reporting by Michael Holden, Elizabeth Piper, Kate
Holton and Estelle Shirbon; Writing by Guy Faulconbridge;
Editing by Giles Elgood, David Clarke and Gareth Jones)

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