Britain has long been divided on how it handles the pandemic, with England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales taking divergent paths. Their differences were on display once again on Wednesday as Northern Ireland announced a four-week lockdown, and England’s three-tier system got off to a chaotic start in the northern city of Liverpool.
Northern Ireland, with a population of about 1.8 million people, is reporting an average of nearly 900 new daily cases this week, compared with an average of just over 100 during the height of the first wave of the pandemic in mid April, according to figures compiled by the Belfast Telegraph.
In response, it will close schools two weeks, and pubs and restaurants for a full month (takeout and delivery excluded). These changes will begin rolling out on Friday. Retail shops will be allowed to remain open.
Arlene Foster, Northern Ireland’s first minister, announced the new measures in the regional legislature, known as Stormont, noting a “very worrying increase” in the number of new coronavirus cases. While localized restrictions have been in place for some time, cases have continued to surge.
“This is deeply troubling and more steps are urgently needed,” Ms. Foster said.
Of the region’s nearly 22,000 total recorded cases, more than a quarter have occurred in the past seven days.
Liverpool, meanwhile, entered the “very high” alert level on Wednesday under England’s new three-tier system. Restrictions include a ban on meeting those from different households indoors and the closure of pubs and bars.
As bars closed at 10 p.m. on Tuesday, patrons poured into the street in Liverpool’s Concert Square. Videos posted online showed crowds of mostly young people packed together, embracing and dancing in the street, even as area hospitals are bracing for a new wave of coronavirus admissions.
Liverpool’s five members of Parliament have been highly critical of their region being singled out and have called for a broader national lockdown.
The measures come as Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain faces criticism for ignoring scientific advice for a brief nationwide lockdown — saying it would come at too high a cost — and instead implementing the new three-tier system.
In other news around the world:
As the politicians governing Madrid continue to fight against a federal state of emergency imposed last Friday on Spain’s capital region, a second wave of the virus is spreading faster in other parts of the country. In the northeastern region of Catalonia, the authorities approved new restrictions, including a 15-day closure of all bars and restaurants, except for takeaway food. Shops must limit their occupancy rate at 30 percent. “We are in an extremely complicated situation,” the acting regional leader of Catalonia, Pere Aragonès, said on Twitter. The number of cases in Catalonia has risen about 40 percent in the past week. In Navarra, whose regional capital is Pamplona, which has in recent days superseded Madrid as the region with the highest official infection rate, new restrictions came into force on Tuesday that included closing playgrounds and outdoors sports areas, as well forcing restaurants to close at 10 p.m. (Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this item misstated Navarra’s relationship to Pamplona.)