British Prime Minister Boris Johnson decreed on Monday a new national lockdown in England, including the closure of schools, due to the alarming spread of the coronavirus caused by the new strain. In this way Johnson follows the steps of the Scottish Prime Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, who also announced today the strictest blockade since March to stop the advance of the new variant of the virus.
These new restrictions will apply only to England, as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have the power to dictate their own restrictions on the covid pandemic. “Hospitals are under more pressure than at any time since the beginning of the pandemic,” the ‘premier’ said in a speech to the nation, in which he urged all citizens not to leave their homes except for some essential reason. Citizens are called upon to follow the new instructions now, although the law to regulate this new confinement will not be passed until Wednesday morning in Parliament.
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Johnson called for caution about the length of the measure, but said he hopes to gradually lift the lockdown and reopen schools after the mid-February school vacations “if our knowledge of the virus does not change, if vaccination continues to be successful, if deaths start to drop and if everyone plays their part by the rules”.
He also expects that by mid-February the first dose of vaccine will have been administered to the four priority groups in the immunization campaign: residents and residential workers, those over 80, public health service (NHS) workers, and the population with pre-existing conditions.
New and more variant of coronavirus
The British Prime Minister noted that the new variant – 50 to 70 percent more contagious – is spreading “in a frustrating and alarming way”. To illustrate the situation, he revealed that the number of people currently hospitalized by covid is “40% higher than at the peak of the first wave” in April.
Among the guidelines that are part of the new confinement, Johnson urged citizens to stay home and only leave their homes “for limited reasons”. Among them, to “buy essentials, seek medical help – such as requesting a covid-19 test – work if absolutely necessary, exercise or escape from abusive situations at home.
As for schools and universities, these centers will operate remotely from tomorrow until mid-February, although care services for the youngest, such as day care, will remain operational.
The largest vaccination campaign in the history
Johnson also highlighted as “great difference” between this new confinement and the previous one the fact that the country is now immersed “in the largest vaccination campaign in the history” of the United Kingdom, after the introduction today of the compound developed by the University of Oxford and the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, which joins the preparation of Pfizer/BioNTech.
The country’s top medical advisors today recommended raising the alert level – from 4 to 5 – and warned that the public health system “could be overwhelmed in 21 days” unless tougher measures are taken.
“Without further action, there is a material risk that in several areas the NHS will be overwhelmed in the next 21 days,” they warned. “Cases are increasing almost everywhere, in much of the country, driven by the new, more transmissible variant of the virus,” they explained.