Los Angeles County has implemented stricter coronavirus restrictions amid a surge in cases and hospitalisations (AP)

Los Angeles County, the most populous county in the United States, has announced stricter stay-at-home orders, including banning most gatherings, as coronavirus cases surge.

The three-week “safer at home” order, which will take effect on Monday, advises residents to stay home “as much as possible” as well as wearing a mask whenever outside. It also prohibits all gatherings outside one’s immediate household except for religious gatherings and protests because they were “constitutionally protected rights.”

Additionally, businesses were given new occupancy limits. Essential retail businesses are allowed to operate at 35 per cent capacity while indoor nonessential businesses can operate at 20 per cent.

Restaurants and other eateries will remain closed for in-person dining, but residents can still order food for delivery or pick-up.

Beaches, trails, and parks are also allowed to remain open, but new safety requirements will be in place to avoid large gatherings of people. Playgrounds and card rooms, though, will be forced to close.

The county also decided to keep its schools and day camps open, but they would be forced to close if they reached three or more coronavirus cases over a 14-day period.

“We know we are asking a lot from so many who have been sacrificing for months on end,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. “Acting with collective urgency right now is essential if we want to put a stop to this surge.”

The stricter restrictions, which will impact 10 million residents, come after the county reported 24 new deaths due to the novel virus and more than 4,500 new coronavirus cases on Friday.

Prior to reaching those numbers, the county had set a threshold for issuing a new stay-home order, which was recording an average of 4,500 cases per day over five days. Officials initially thought this threshold would not be met until next month, but on Friday the five-day average of new cases reached 4,751.

Los Angeles County was not the only place in California experiencing a surge in cases, hospitalisations, and deaths.

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The number of people hospitalised for the novel virus in the state has doubled in the last two weeks, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Nearly 6,650 people with Covid-19 were hospitalised in one of the state’s hospitals as of Thursday, which was double the 3,300 people who were in hospitals on 11 November fighting the infection. At the peak of the virus surge in mid-July, California reports 7,170 people in hospitals. It was now at 93 per cent of that peak, causing serious concern among officials.

In Los Angeles County, the number of new people hospitalised from the novel virus has jumped up by about 80 people per day over the last week, which helped influence the stricter restrictions.

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