United Kingdom prime minister Boris Johnson has announced a new national lockdown in England. He instructed people to “stay at home” similar to what they did during the nation’s first lockdown in March 2020.
Johnson revealed the directive in an address aired on TV on Monday night. He arrived at the decision after receiving news that COVID-19 cases in England are rapidly increasing. This surge in cases is also partly due to the new coronavirus variant prevalent in the country.
The government is asking the public to immediately follow the new lockdown rules. The new set of rules has replaced the tier system entirely. The new lockdown, which is the third national shutdown in England, is set to last until mid-February.
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With the lockdown, Johnson said that he hopes, by the time it ends, nearly 14 million people in the country would have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine.
Since the announcement, everyone across the country must stay at home. The only exceptions are the following:
- for work, if a person’s job cannot be done from home, such as for construction workers
- for people shopping for necessities
- to exercise (which can only be done once a day in a local area)
- for people who provide care and help to vulnerable persons
- for people who need to seek medical care or for people seeking to flee from threat or harm.
Directives for Schools and Businesses
In terms of education, all primary and secondary schools, as well as colleges, will have to move to online learning starting Tuesday. Schools will remain closed until the February half-term.
Schools for children of key workers or vulnerable people, however, can still operate during the national lockdown in England. Also, nurseries can operate as long as childcare and support bubbles stay intact.
On the other hand, pubs, restaurants, and cafes are allowed to continue their dine-out services. However, the selling of alcohol is prohibited.
Shops for essential needs, as well as garden centers and places of worship, are allowed to remain open. Although, places of leisure, such as zoos and sports facilities, must remain closed.
With these instructions, shielding for clinically vulnerable people will continue. The UK government continues to urge such people to stay at home as much as possible, even if they need to go travel for work. The government says this group of people should only go out for exercise and medical appointments.
In his address, Johnson mentioned that the new coronavirus variant continues to spread at a “frustrating and alarming” rate. This mutation-laden virus is believed to be 50% to 70% more transmissible.
According to the prime minister, a person is “much more likely to catch the virus and pass it on. He also said that “our hospitals are under more pressure from COVID than at any time since the start of the pandemic.”
COVID-19 Surge in England Causes New National Lockdown
As of Monday, 26,626 COVID-19 patients were in hospital in England. This shows a more-than-30% increase in cases in one week. It is also more than 40% higher than the first wave of COVID-19 in the country.
Apart from a surge in cases, the death rate has seen a 25% increase in the past week, compared to the previous week.
Despite the alarming surge, Johnson hailed the new COVID-19 vaccines, saying it is “one huge difference” from the country’s first lockdown last year.
In relation to this, Johnson revealed his plans for the distribution of the vaccine. He says he plans to offer the first dose to home care residents, people over 70, all frontline workers, and everyone who is considered vulnerable.
“If we succeed in vaccinating all those groups, we will have removed huge numbers of people from the path of the virus,” he said. “And of course, that will eventually enable us to lift many of the restrictions we have endured for so long,” Johnson added.
“The weeks ahead will be the hardest yet but I really do believe that we are entering the last phase of the struggle,” he went on to say.
Additionally, the minister for vaccine deployment, Nadhim Zahawi, tweeted the government’s goals. It aims to administer 13.9 million doses by the middle of February.
The announcement came after the COVID-19 alert level in the UK was raised from 4 to 5 for the first time. Level 5 in this alert system is the highest possible one.