Britain resists full lockdown in face of rising cases and falling support

A cyclist rides his bike along Waterloo Bridge, in London, Monday, May 18, 2020. Large areas of London are to be closed to cars and vans to allow people to walk and cycle safely as the coronavirus lockdown is eased, including Waterloo Bridge and London Bridge. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s government resisted the idea of a new national lockdown on Friday, even as a survey showed soaring COVID-19 infections and Prime Minister Boris Johnson slumped in the polls, testing his resolve to use mainly local measures to tackle the pandemic.

Britain has recorded more than 20,000 new coronavirus cases a day on average over the last week, but the government has resisted a new national lockdown, even as France and Germany reintroduce country-wide restrictions.

Foreign minister Dominic Raab on Friday said a national lockdown in England was not inevitable, adding that though the situation was serious, he was confident in the government’s approach.

“We’ve seen some evidence since we started putting in place this tiered approach that the rate of increase has slowed,” Raab told BBC TV, adding it was important that local rules were followed.

“That is the way we avoid the more drastic measures that we don’t want to take because of the impact they would have on the economy.”

However, new COVID-19 cases in England increased by around 51,900 each day last week, up nearly 50% on the week before, an official survey said on Friday. [L8N2HL5C2]

That suggested that the incidence of new infections was still rising steeply and had not levelled off, in contrast to the previous week’s survey.

The government has adopted a three-tiered system of restrictions for local areas, though the opposition Labour party has called for a temporary national lockdown to break chains of infection.

On Friday the government said West Yorkshire, which includes the northern cities of Bradford, Leeds and Wakefield, would enter the top tier of restrictions from Monday.

Adding to Johnson’s headache, a poll by Ipsos MORI indicated falling support for the government, finding that the opposition Labour party had overtaken Johnson’s Conservatives, with Johnson himself recording his lowest net satisfaction as prime minister.

Labour were on 42%, with the Conservatives on 37%, although the poll was taken before Labour suspended previous leader Jeremy Corbyn for his response to an investigation detailing how the party had failed in dealing with reports of anti-Semitism.