British Health Minister Lays Out COVID-19 Response as Cases Surge

Britain’s health minister went before parliament Monday to discuss the government’s response to a surge in positive COVID-19 cases in the nation.Matt Hancock acknowledged what the government’s top medical and science advisers had said earlier in the day – that COVID-19 has been surging across age groups throughout much of Britain.Among the steps the government plans to take, Hancock said, is encouraging self-isolation by those who have been infected or exposed to the virus. The government will also offer a single support payment of about $640 for low-income people for whom self-isolation would be an economic hardship.A woman wears a face mask as she stands in front of a statue of The Beatles following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease in Liverpool, Britain, Sept. 21, 2020.Hancock said those asked to self-isolate who refuse to do so could face fines of nearly $13,000 for serious breaches or repeat offenders.The health minister told British lawmakers that demand for testing has dropped slightly since last week, taking a little pressure off the system. Nonetheless, the demand for tests remains high enough that the government must prioritize who receives them.Hancock said acute care cases are the top priority for testing, followed by people in care homes, National Health Service targeted testing for outbreak management and surveillance studies, teaching staff with symptoms, and the general public.He said the government continues working on further measures to address the COVID-19 surge, and the prime minister will update parliament Tuesday on further measures.Earlier Monday, the government’s chief medical adviser reported the latest figures show new cases in Britain totaled more than 6,000 per day. Chris Witty said if nothing changes, at the current rate of infection, new cases could reach 50,000 a day by this time next month. 

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