British Prime Boris Johnson pushed back again Wednesday on opposition efforts to implement a two-week "circuit-breaker" nationwide lockdown to stem the spread of coronavirus cases in the country.
In the House of Commons, Opposition Labor Party leader Keir Starmer said Johnson's regional three-tiered alert system has not been working and that more drastic measures need to be put in place.
The system, implemented more than a week ago, classifies regions of the country as medium, high or very high virus risk, based on their levels of new cases. In the highest risk areas, pubs are closed, residents from one household are barred from mixing with another, and travel in and out of the area is discouraged.
Starmer said infection rates continue to surge - locking some regions in the northeast, especially, into Tier Three, while moving others from Tier Two to Three - indicating to him that none of the measures is working. He said the measures are "the worst of both worlds," causing "significant economic harm without getting the virus sufficiently under control" to lift the restrictions.
Starmer accused Johnson of having no exit strategy for the government's plan and said there is a clear choice: weeks of prolonged agony under the tiered system, or a two-week, nationwide "circuit breaker" lockdown. He noted that Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland each had announced either lockdowns or near-lockdowns beginning Friday.
Johnson defended the government's localized approach as balanced and "commonsensical," and he said the "circuit breaker" method being touted by Starmer would bring, with schools and businesses closed, economic as well as psychological and emotional damage to the people of Britain.
Johnson's government Tuesday imposed Tier Three restrictions on greater Manchester, Britain's second-largest urban area, after failing to reach agreement with local authorities on financial support for businesses and employees affected by the lockdown.