LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson declared on Monday a new nationwide lockdown for England to tackle a quickly circulating strain of coronavirus until at least mid-February, even as Britain stepped up its vaccine policy by being the first country to start using the shot developed by Oxford University and drugmaker AstraZeneca.
As they were told to do so in the first wave of the pandemic in March, this time because the new virus variant was circulating in a stressful and worrying manner, Johnson said people would remain at home again.
As I talk to you today, Covid has placed more pressure on our hospitals than at any point since the pandemic started,’ he added.
Under the current laws, which are expected to come into place as soon as possible, primary and secondary schools and universities, with the exception of the children of main staff, will be closed for face-to-face instruction. Students from universities will not resume until at least mid-February.
All non-essential stores and personal care outlets, such as hairdressers, will be closed, and only takeout services will be provided by restaurants.
As of Monday, hospitals in England had 26,626 Covid admissions, a rise of more than 30 percent from a week earlier. That is 40 percent above the first wave’s highest amount in the spring.
In recent weeks, as public health authorities try to monitor the dissemination of a new strain of COVID-19 that is more infectious than past strains, the UK has seen an unprecedented increase in coronavirus reports. Since hitting the landmark for the first time on Dec. 29, officials have registered over 50,000 new infections a day. They registered 407 virus-related deaths on Monday to bring the overall confirmed death toll to 75,431, one of the worst in Europe.
Hours ago, Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish queen, also put a lockout on her country before the end of January.
Starting on Tuesday, to help alleviate the burden on hospitals and intensive care units, people in Scotland would be allowed to stay at home except for important reasons, Sturgeon said.
The announcements came on the day that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was placed into arms across the world by the UK health authorities, fueling optimism that by the spring life may begin to return to normal.
Britain won the rights to 100 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which is affordable and simpler to use than any of its counterparts. In specific, the super-cold storage required for the Pfizer vaccine does not require it.
For the first two days, the latest vaccine will be distributed in a limited number of clinics so that officials can monitor for any adverse effects. But the NHS has said that hundreds of new vaccination sites would open later this week, including local doctors’ offices, joining the more than 700 vaccination sites currently in place.