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Facing COVID-19 Surge, England to Reenter Lockdown

England is reentering national lockdown this week as coronavirus cases surge, threatening to overload the National Health Service (NHS).

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that a national lockdown will commence on Thursday; schools and essential shops may remain open, but other businesses—including pubs and restaurants—most close until at least 2 December, Metro reports. The decision comes in the wake of government scientists’ warnings that the second wave of COVID-19 cases in the United Kingdom is on track to be twice as bad as the initial wave, and unless urgent action is taken, there could be several thousand deaths per day by the end of the year.

The overloading of the NHS would be a “medical and moral disaster, beyond the raw loss of life,” Johnson said, explaining that a dearth of cases would force medical professionals to make agonizing decisions over which patients to treat first, especially if resources—and available beds—dwindle. “The risk is, for the first time in our lives, the NHS will not be there for us.”

The new lockdown puts England in the same boat as other European nations that have returned to strict COVID-19 response measures targeting socialization and entertainment while trying to keep essential services—including education—running as long as possible.

In Germany, coronavirus cases were doubling every seven days, driving Chancellor Angela Merkel to announce a limited lockdown, closing bars, restaurants, cafes, gyms, swimming pools, theaters, cinemas, and concert venues. Schools and daycare facilities will remain open as long as possible, NPR reported, and Germans (particularly in virus hotspots like Berlin) are being urged to curtail socializing and partying.

French President Emmanuel Macron announced a nationwide lockdown last week. The lockdown—which will not close schools—is likely to last until the start of December. Last week, France reported 288 new virus-related deaths in a 24-hour period, and intensive care units are filling up with COVID-19 patients, USA Today reported. Macron announced that France is seeing upwards of 40,000-50,000 new identified coronavirus infections each day.

Italy ordered bars and restaurants to close by 6:00 p.m. every night and closed gyms, movie theaters, and pools. Spain imposed a nighttime curfew, and local authorities can ban travel between regions as needed.

As of 2 November, reported COVID-19 cases have reached 46 million, globally and nearly 1.2 million people have died from COVID-19, according to the World Health Organization. There have been 11 million confirmed COVID-19 cases in Europe.