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Bartenders pour drinks in a pub in London Bridge amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in London, on Sept. 24, 2020.HANNAH MCKAY/Reuters

When British businessman Simon Dolan launched a legal challenge to the government’s COVID-19 restrictions last spring, he received death threats and hate mail.

Mr. Dolan shrugged off the attacks and pressed on. Now instead of threats, he is winning applause from a growing number of people who’ve become frustrated at the government’s handling of the pandemic and tired of the constant stream of ever-changing measures.

“It’s been crazy actually,” Mr. Dolan said from his home in Monaco. “As time has gone on I’ve seen quite a gradual shift to my way of thinking.” More than 11,500 people have donated £335,000, or $576,000, to fund his legal battle, and 250,000 people have backed his Keep Britain Free campaign.

Mr. Dolan argues that the government’s latest measures – including forcing pubs to close at 10 p.m. and restricting gatherings to six people – have destroyed thousands of businesses. “My sole focus of this whole thing has been trying to push back against this creeping totalitarianism,” he said. “The most effective measures would be to protect the vulnerable and everybody else can get on with their lives.”

Not everyone agrees with Mr. Dolan’s solution, but his lawsuit illustrates the increasing pushback Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing as he scrambles to contain a massive surge in COVID-19 cases. Regional councils have railed against tougher local lockdown rules and several business groups have joined Mr. Dolan in taking the government to court.

“This government has failed to show why the 10 p.m. curfew was put in place and has published no scientific evidence to substantiate its implementation,” said Jeremy Joseph, who owns a chain of nightclubs called G-A-Y. Mr. Joseph and the Night Time Industries Association filled a lawsuit on Monday to overturn the curfew. The British Beer and Pub Association, UKHospitality and the British Institute of Innkeeping have also called on ministers to reconsider the curfew.

Mr. Johnson has insisted the new restrictions were necessary to stem a wave of cases that hit a record 22,961 on Sunday, more than three times the daily totals released last week. The infection rate in some cities, notably Manchester and Liverpool, has soared above 300 per 100,000 people, ranking them among the most infected areas in Europe.

While there had been some hope that the increase in cases was beginning to slow down, that fell apart on the weekend. Public Health England officials announced on Sunday that the day’s figure had been bloated by nearly 16,000 positive tests dating back eight days that had not been included in the regular tallies or reported to the tracing system. The mishap was blamed on a computer glitch and although everyone who tested positive has been told to self-isolate, officials have yet to track down all of their contacts.

“This is an absolute scandal,” said a tweet from Duncan Robertson, a lecturer in management sciences and analytics at Loughborough University and fellow of St Catherine’s College, Oxford. “These individuals will not have had their contacts identified and those contacts may have become infectious and may have been spreading the virus.”

In a statement to the House of Commons on Monday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said his department was investigating the glitch, which he blamed on a legacy computer system. “This incident should never have happened,” he told members of Parliament. Mr. Hancock added that officials had tracked down slightly more than half of the contacts of those infected. He also said the number of confirmed cases had fallen to 12,594 on Monday. That compared with roughly 7,000 cases a day last week and 1,500 a month ago.

Mr. Hancock indicated the government was considering tightening measures even further in the northwest and northeast, the areas that have seen the biggest jump in infections. That could include closing pubs and restaurants, and banning all social contact between households (Scotland has already prohibited households from mixing). That’s likely to cause even more consternation.

Last week the mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, and civic leaders from the surrounding area said their economies could collapse unless the government offered more support to businesses. “We are already at breaking point,” they said in a joint statement. “With new restrictions – and who knows for how long they might be needed – our economy and public services may collapse.”

The wave of cases has already taken a toll on some sectors. Cineworld confirmed on Monday that it will temporarily close all of its 663 movie theatres in Britain and the United States, putting 45,000 people out of work. Odeon said it planned to operate some of its 120 British cinemas only on weekends. And the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders announced on Monday that car sales had fallen to a 20-year low in September and were expected to plunge by 31 per cent this year.

Mr. Dolan said one of his companies, a chartered airline business, had seen a 40-per-cent drop in revenue because of new quarantine regulations for arriving travellers. But he said other companies were suffering far more and he blamed Mr. Johnson and other politicians for overreacting to the virus. “The overall aim from the very start [of the lawsuit] has just been to get these ridiculous restrictions reversed,” he said.

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