UK PM, Johnson, announces full lockdown over Covid-19

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England will return to a full coronavirus lockdown, probably until mid-February, in a bid to cut spiralling infection rates, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday.

The measures, which include the closure of primary and secondary schools, will begin on Wednesday, he said in a televised address, after Scotland announced similar measures would come into force from midnight on Tuesday.

Three-quarter of the population of England (about 44 million people) are already living under the toughest restrictions, as Britain battles with one of the worst mortality rates from coronavirus in the world.

Their failure to halt an upward trend in positive cases has been blamed on a more infectious new variant.

PM Johnson said that as of Monday, almost 27,000 people with Covid-19 were in hospital, with 40 percent more than at the peak of first wave of the outbreak on April last year.

Last week Tuesday, over 80,000 people tested positive in just 24 hours.

“With most of the country already under extreme measures, it’s clear that we need to do more, together, to bring this new variant under control while our vaccines are rolled out,” Johnson said.

“In England, we must therefore go into a national lockdown.”

The new measures are similar to those during the first three-month lockdown from late March to June in 2020.

The measures include the closure of schools, working from home wherever possible, limits on leaving home, except for exercise, essential shopping and for medical supplies, and no household mixing.

Johnson said a decision on whether to hold annual national exams for 16- and 18-year-olds will be made after consultations between the education secretary and qualifications bodies.

That state-run National Health Service is at risk of being overwhelmed within 21 days if no action is taken, as the four chief medical officers of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland said the country had moved to the highest coronavirus level five, shortly before the announcement.

PM Johnson said he hoped the restrictions could be eased gradually after the next school holidays in mid-February, and acknowledged the weeks ahead “will be the hardest yet”.

He also said he was encouraged by the roll-out of two Covid vaccines, including AstraZeneca, developed by Oxford University, which could see the four most vulnerable groups inoculated in the next six weeks.

“With every jab that goes into our arms, we are tilting the odds against Covid and in favour of the British people,” he added.

AFP

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