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Month-long England lockdown could be extended: senior official

Xinhua | Updated: 2020-11-02 09:12
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A woman walks past a store on Oxford street, after new nationwide restrictions were announced during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in London, Britain, Nov 1, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

LONDON - British Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove on Sunday admitted the month-long lockdown, which will be imposed in England on Thursday, could be extended if rates of infection do not fall sufficiently.

Gove made the statement after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the new restrictions, which are set to last until Dec 2, at a press conference from Downing Street on Saturday.

"We do need to get the R rate below 1," Gove told the BBC, referring to the reproduction rate, or R number, which is one of many indicators scientists use to determine how fast COVID-19 is spreading in the country.

Across Britain, the R number is now between 1.1 and 1.3, the latest official figures showed Friday.

An R number of between 1.1 and 1.3 means on average every 10 people with the virus will infect between 11 and 13 others.

If the R number is above one, it means the number of cases will increase exponentially.

It is his "fervent hope" that England's new lockdown will end on Dec 2, but that British ministers will be "guided by the facts", Gove said.

He said the steps were necessary to avoid the "medical and moral disaster" of the British National Health Service (NHS) being overwhelmed.

Under the new restrictions, the second of its kind since the start of coronavirus in Britain, pubs, restaurants, gyms, non-essential shops and places of worship will close, but schools, colleges and universities can stay open.

The toughest social curbs were announced amid warnings that hospitalisations and deaths could exceed those seen during the first wave of the virus in the next six weeks.

The prime minister is expected to deliver a statement in the House of Commons, or the lower house of parliament, on Monday before a vote on the latest restrictions on Wednesday.

The major opposition, Labour, has said it will back the lockdown, according to media reports.

To bring life back to normal, countries, such as Britain, China, Russia and the United States, are racing against time to develop coronavirus vaccines.

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