LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted on Wednesday that his government’s approach to controlling the spread of COVID-19 was still the right one, despite rising infection rates.
Johnson’s strategy over the summer, when new nationwide infections were in the low hundreds per day, was to try to shut down localised outbreaks while reopening the wider economy.
Since then, new cases have risen sharply, with more than 14,000 reported on Wednesday and data beginning to show a slow rise in the number of virus patients admitted to hospital.
“The local and regional approach combined with the national measures remains correct,” Johnson told parliament when asked why infections continued to rise in areas where local lockdown measures have been put in place.
Scotland, where the devolved government sets its own public health policy, announced stricter restrictions on Wednesday, ordering all pubs in Glasgow and Edinburgh to close for 16 days from Friday.
Labour Party opposition leader Keir Starmer said Johnson’s strategy was not working and presented analysis which showed infection rates had risen in 19 out of 20 areas in England that are subject to additional lockdown measures.
Johnson said the data was “no surprise” and supported his approach because it showed that the strictest measures were in place where there were the most cases.
The analysis showed that in Wigan, northwest England, the infection rate, measured as the number of confirmed cases per 100,000 population, had risen by 3,653% since a local lockdown was first imposed on July 30, increasing to 225 from 6.
Increases in the other areas were between 13% and 2,241%, Labour’s data showed.
Britain’s COVID-19 testing system – already under fire over reporting errors – also faced more disruption after Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche said problems at a new warehouse had delayed the dispatch of some products.
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge, writing by William James; editing by Stephen Addison)