UK faces calls for ‘Plan B’ with virus cases high and rising




London (image: Reuters)

LONDON (AP) — Many scientists are pressing the British government to re-impose social restrictions and speed up booster vaccinations as coronavirus infection rates, already Europe’s highest, rise still further.

The U.K. recorded 49,156 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, the largest number since mid-July. New infections averaged 43,000 a day over the past week, a 15% increase on the week before.

Last week, the Office for National Statistics estimated that 1 in 60 people in England had the virus, one of the highest levels seen in Britain during the pandemic.

In July, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government lifted all the legal restrictions that had been imposed more than a year earlier to slow the spread of the virus, including face coverings indoors and social distancing rules. Nightclubs and other crowded venues were allowed to open at full capacity, and people were no longer advised to work from home if they could.

Some modelers feared a big spike in cases after the opening-up. That did not occur, but infections remained high, and recently have begun to increase.

So have hospitalizations and deaths, which are averaging more than 100 a day — far lower than when cases were last this high, before much of the population was vaccinated, but still too high, critics of the government say.