LONDON (Reuters) – Londoners shrugged off a resurgent COVID-19 pandemic and flocked to pubs and restaurants on Wednesday night, hours before the introduction of a new month-long lockdown across England.
While the UK’s death toll from the coronavirus rose on Wednesday by 492, the most since mid-May, London’s Soho entertainment district was busy with revelers seeking one last night out before lockdown.
People will be ordered to stay at home from 0001 GMT on Thursday to combat a surge in new infections that scientists say could, if unchecked, cause more deaths than a first wave that forced a three-month lockdown earlier this year.
The United Kingdom has the biggest official death toll in Europe from COVID-19 and is grappling with more than 20,000 new coronavirus cases a day. Scientists warned the “worst-case” scenario of 80,000 dead could be exceeded without action.
Even before Wednesday, data from restaurant bookings service OpenTable showed a surge in demand for London eateries during the run-up to the new lockdown.
Several English police forces used social media to urge people going out on Wednesday night to follow social-distancing rules.
The rest of the UK – Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – have their own lockdown policies and enacted tougher health restrictions last month.
Reporting by Henry Nicholls; Writing by Andy Bruce; Editing by Peter Cooney