National News

NYC looks to reinstate virus restrictions

New York City's mayor has asked the state for permission to close schools and reinstate restrictions on nonessential businesses in several neighbourhoods because of a coronavirus resurgence.

The action, if approved, would mark a disheartening retreat for a city that enjoyed a summer with less spread of the virus than most other parts of the country.

It had had only recently celebrated the return of students citywide to in-person learning in classrooms.

Shutdowns would happen starting on Wednesday in nine postcodes in the city, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

About 100 public schools and 200 private schools would have to close.

Indoor dining, which just resumed a few days ago, would be suspended. Outdoor restaurant dining would shut down in the affected neighbourhoods as well, and gyms would close.

Houses of worship would be allowed to remain open with existing restrictions in place, de Blasio said.

The mayor, a Democrat, said he was taking the action in an attempt to stop the virus spreading deeper into the city and becoming a "second wave" like the one that killed more than 24,000 New Yorkers in spring.

"We've learned over and over from this disease that it is important to act aggressively and when the data tells us it's time for even the toughest and most rigorous actions we follow the data," de Blasio said.

Over the past two weeks, the number of new cases of the virus has been rising predominantly in neighbourhoods in Brooklyn and Queens that are home to the city's large Orthodox Jewish population.

Nearly 1100 people have tested positive in Brooklyn in just the last four days, according to state figures.

De Blasio made the announcement shortly after Governor Andrew Cuomo complained that local governments with coronavirus hot spots had "not done an effective job" of enforcing social distancing rules.

Cuomo did not immediately comment on de Blasio's proposed shutdown in the areas where the virus is spiking.

As many as 500,000 people live in neighbourhoods affected by the proposed shutdown, de Blasio said.

He said it could be lifted as soon as 14 days if infection rates decline.

The coronavirus was estimated to have hit between 1 and 2 million people in New York City, mostly in the spring before testing was widely available.

Thousands of people fell ill each day. By the summer's end, the city appeared to have the virus partly in check, averaging fewer than 240 new cases per day citywide as recently as September 7.

The city's overall infection rate is around 420 new cases a day but they have been concentrated in a handful of neighbourhoods.

The nine postcodes singled out by the mayor have been responsible for more than 20 per cent of all new infections in the city over the past four weeks but represent only 7 per cent of the population.

© AP 2020