Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (UK) Boris Johnson has ordered a new national lockdown that will last till mid-February to tackle the fast-spreading coronavirus new variant.
Johnson said the move was necessary to aid contain the disease variant, even as Britain ramped up its vaccination program by becoming the first nation to start using the vaccine developed by Oxford University and drugmaker AstraZeneca.
The Prime Minister declared on Monday, January 4, that people must stay at home again, as they were ordered to do in the first wave of the pandemic in March, 2020.
“As I speak to you tonight, our hospitals are under more pressure from COVID than at any time since the start of the pandemic,” he said.
Johnson admitted that there were “tough, tough” weeks to come in the fight against COVID-19.
According to the new rules, which are set to come into effect now, primary and secondary schools and colleges will be closed for face to face learning except for the children of key workers. University students will not be returning until at least mid-February.
All nonessential shops and personal care services like hairdressers will be closed, and restaurants can only operate takeout services.
Data released reveals that as of Monday, there were 26,626 COVID patients in hospitals in England, an increase of more than 30% from a week ago. That is 40% above the highest level of the first wave in the spring.
On Monday, the country reported 407 virus-related deaths to push the confirmed death toll total to 75,431, one of the worst in Europe.
The U.K.’s chief medical officers warned that, “there is a material risk of the National Health Service in several areas being overwhelmed over the next 21 days.” without further action
Scottish leader, Nicola Sturgeon also on Monday, imposed a lockdown until the end of January.
“Beginning Tuesday, people in Scotland will be required to stay at home except for essential reasons, to help ease the pressure on hospitals and intensive care units,” Sturgeon announced.