London, the world's international financial capital, will enter a tighter COVID-19 lockdown from midnight on Friday as Prime Minister Boris Johnson seeks to tackle a swiftly accelerating second coronavirus wave.
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The respiratory pandemic, which emerged in China last year and has killed over a million people worldwide, is spreading in most parts of Britain, whose official death toll of 43,155 is the highest in Europe.
Anger, though, is rising over the economic, social and health costs of the biggest curtailment of freedoms since wartime. One former government adviser warned some people would have trouble clothing their children soon.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said London, which has a population of 9 million, as well as the adjacent, heavily populated county of Essex, would be put on “high” alert level, up from “medium,” at one minute past midnight (2301 GMT Friday).
The main impact of the move to “high” is that people cannot meet other households socially indoors in any setting, for example at home or in a restaurant. Travel should be reduced where possible, Hancock said.
“Things will get worse before they get better,” Hancock said. “But I know that there are brighter skies and calmer seas ahead - that the ingenuity of science will find a way through and until then we must come together.”
Britain's move to halt socializing in its capital means that London and Paris - Europe's two richest cities - are shortly to be living under the shadow of state-imposed restrictions as the second wave of the outbreak spreads through Europe.
President Emmanuel Macron announced night curfews for four weeks from Saturday in Paris and other major cities.
London, the world's center for international banking and foreign exchange trading, is only rivalled by New York when it comes to financial clout. The worst-hit London areas are Richmond, Hackney, the City of London, Ealing, Redbridge and Harrow.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said: “I must warn Londoners: We've got a difficult winter ahead.”