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Under fire, British PM Johnson to unveil new coronavirus measures

·2 mins read

LONDON, Oct 11 (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will set out new measures to try to contain a growing coronavirus crisis on Monday, outlining three new alert levels to better coordinate the government's under-fire response.

After being criticised for offering the public mixed messaging as the numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths increase, Johnson will again go to parliament and the country to ask for support for a new approach to stem the spread.

Northern England has been particularly hard hit by a new surge in coronavirus cases that has forced local lockdowns as students returned to schools and universities across Britain.

The mayor of Liverpool, Steve Rotherham, said on Sunday the government wanted to put his city and surrounding area in the category subject to the toughest restrictions, adding that the measures that would apply there had not yet been agreed.

Sky News reported this could mean shutting bars, gyms, casinos and bookmakers. Rotherham said any announcement would need to include funds for businesses that were shut.

Johnson, under pressure from parts of his Conservative Party over some COVID-19 measures, is reluctant to repeat a national lockdown that would further hurt a struggling economy, but has been urged to act by medical officials.

"Our primary focus has always been to protect lives and livelihoods while controlling the spread of the virus, and these measures will help achieve that aim," a spokesperson from Johnson's Downing Street office said in a statement.

Johnson is expected to set out a new system of "local COVID alert levels" of medium, high or very high, aimed at helping tailor restrictions for different parts of England.

Downing Street was keen to emphasise the new system had been widely discussed with regional leaders.

On Monday, Johnson will hold a meeting of the government's emergency COBRA committee and then address parliament, offering lawmakers a vote later in the week on the measures. He will also hold a press conference alongside England's chief medical officer and his finance minister. (Reporting by Elizabeth Piper Editing by Peter Graff)