Boris Johnson has been praised by the World Health Organization (WHO) for the “strong and precise” coronavirus lockdown measures imposed in northern England.
WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the UK government’s restrictions in Greater Manchester, Lancashire and west Yorkshire are helping wider society reopen safely.
His words were far more positive than some of those Johnson has received at home, where the lockdown announcement was denounced in some quarters as an “absolute shambles”.
Dr Tedros said at a WHO press conference on Monday: “Many countries globally are now using all the tools at their disposal to tackle any new spikes.
“Over the last few days, UK prime minister Boris Johnson put areas of northern England under stay at home notifications [this is incorrect – the restrictions actually ban people from meeting at other people’s homes] as clusters of cases were identified.
“In France, president Macron introduced compulsory masking in busy outdoor spaces of Paris in response to an increase in cases.
“Strong and precise measures like these, in combination with utilising every tool at our disposal, are key to preventing any resurgence in disease and allowing societies to be reopened safely.”
As the restrictions were imposed on 31 July, Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy – who is MP for one of the affected areas, Wigan – was among those to label the announcement as an “absolute shambles”. She added the government had “made it harder to follow advice”.
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham also criticised Downing Street for not publishing the exact rules immediately after the announcement was made on 30 July.
Inconsistencies also exist in the rules, demonstrated by the fact people in affected areas are banned from visiting a friend or family member’s garden, where the risk of coronavirus transmission is slim, but are still allowed to drink inside a pub, where the risk of the infection spreading is higher.
As of Sunday, the UK had the fourth highest death toll in the world – 46,574 – though the daily death rate has drastically fallen since mid-April.
However, there are signs transmission is increasing. Sunday saw 1,062 new infections recorded. This was the first time more than 1,000 cases were confirmed in a day since 26 June.