LONDON (Reuters) – Britain reported its biggest daily increase in coronavirus cases since June 12 on Thursday, although for now infection rates remain well below those in Spain, France and other parts of Europe suffering a second wave of the disease.
The government said 1,522 people received a laboratory-confirmed positive COVID-19 test result on Thursday, up from 1,048 on Wednesday, and announced a tightening of restrictions on some overseas travel.
Britain has suffered Europe’s highest death toll from the disease, due largely to a failure to control its spread in the early stages of the pandemic.
A further 12 people were reported dead on Thursday, taking the death toll on the British government’s preferred measure – which counts people who died no more than 28 days after their first positive test result – to 41,477.
Britain had not recently seen the same increase in cases as in many other parts of western Europe, where lockdown restrictions began to be lifted earlier.
However Thursday’s daily new case total is now the highest since before non-essential shops reopened to the public in England on June 15, and restaurants and pubs resumed operations on July 4.
France reported 5,429 new daily cases on Wednesday, prompting its government to order the mandatory wearing of face masks across Paris from Friday, and Spain reported 3,781 cases on Thursday.
Some 6,115 new people tested positive for COVID-19 in England in the week to Aug. 19, down 8% on the week before and the first decrease since the start of July, figures from the government’s test and trace operation showed on Thursday.
Deaths from all causes in England in the week to Aug. 23 showed no statistically significant excess compared with previous years, according to public health data.
The government has offered incentives for people to dine in restaurants through August, in a bid to boost economic growth, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants more workers to return to offices when English schools reopen next week.
By contrast, the number of countries British people can travel to without having to quarantine has steadily fallen.
Transport minister Grant Shapps announced on Thursday that anyone arriving in England from Switzerland, the Czech Republic or Jamaica after 0300 GMT on Saturday would need to quarantine themselves for 14 days.
Spain, France, the United States and the Netherlands are other major travel destinations that are already affected.
(Reporting by Paul Sandle; editing by Kate Holton and Sarah Young)