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Boris Johnson has scrapped a series of lockdown-easing measures which had been planned for this weekend amid fears of a second wave of coronavirus.
The changes, which were due to come in to effect from Saturday, would have seen facilities such as bowling alleys, casinos and ice rinks welcome back customers in England - but these have now been delayed.
Indoor performances, weddings of parties up to 30, and pilots of outdoor sports events with spectators - which were also all planned to go ahead from 1 August - are all postponed until 15 August.
Johnson’s statement on Friday afternoon followed the imposition of new restrictions on parts of England, including Greater Manchester, to quell potential new outbreaks.
He also pointed out that the Office for National Statistics believes that COVID cases are increasing and added the government was going to “squeeze” the brakes on reopening for now.
Johnson also announced the wearing of face masks will become mandatory from 8 August in more indoor spaces, including museums, cinemas and places of worship.
“I’ve also consistently warned that this virus could come back and that we would not hesitate to take swift and decisive action as required,” he said.
“I’m afraid that in parts of Asia and in Latin America, the virus is gathering pace and some of our European friends are also struggling to keep it under control.
“As we see these rises around the world, we can’t fool ourselves that we are exempt. We must be willing to react to the first signs of trouble.”
He added: “I know that the steps we are taking will be a real blow to many people, to everyone whose wedding plans have been disrupted or who cannot now celebrate Eid in the way that they would wish.
“And I’m really, really sorry about that but we cannot simply take the risk.”
Workplaces that have been made COVID secure can still reopen.
Face coverings, already mandatory for shoppers, will also have to be warn in indoor spaces where people come into contact with others they don’t know from 8 August.
This includes museums and places of worship, Johnson said.
He said later: “Most people in this country are following the rules and doing their best to control the virus.”
However, he warned it was important to keep up “discipline and our focus”.
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