LONDON – Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday a new national lockdown for England until at least mid-February to combat swift action. Spread of a new variant of the coronavirus even as the UK stepped up its vaccination program by becoming the first country to use the shot developed by Oxford University and drug maker AstraZeneca.
Johnson said people had to stay home again, as ordered in the first wave of the pandemic in March, this time because the new variant of the virus was spreading in « frustrating and alarming » ways.
« As I speak to you tonight, our hospitals are under more pressure from COVID than they have ever been since the pandemic began, » he said.
Under the new rules, which should come into effect as soon as possible, elementary and secondary schools and colleges will be closed for personal learning, with the exception of the children of key workers. Students won’t be returning until mid-February.
All non-essential shops and personal care services such as hairdressers will be closed, and restaurants will only be able to offer take-out services.
From 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 spring.
The U. . K. . There has been an alarming spike in coronavirus cases in recent weeks as public health officials struggled to control the spread of a new variant of COVID-19 that is more contagious than previous variants. Authorities have more than 50 since first reaching this milestone in December. 000 new infections recorded every day. 29. On Monday they reported 407 virus-related deaths, bringing the confirmed death toll to 75. 431 increase, one of the worst in Europe.
The U. . K. . The senior doctors warned that, without further action, “there is a significant risk that the National Health Service will be overwhelmed in several areas in the next 21 days. ”
Hours earlier, Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon had her nation locked until the end of January.
Starting Tuesday, people in Scotland will have to stay home except for essential reasons to ease pressure on hospitals and intensive care units, Sturgeon said. Under the new rules, people can play sports but only meet one person from another household. Schools will remain closed until February, with the exception of the children of key workers and social welfare.
« I am more concerned about the situation we are facing now than I have ever been since March last year, » said Sturgeon in Edinburgh.
Scotland controlling its own health policy under the U. K. . The system of decentralized government has often placed stricter restrictions on coronavirus than in England.
The announcements come on day U. . K. . Health officials began hugging the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine across the country, raising hopes that life could return to normal in the spring.
The UK has secured the rights to 100 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which is cheaper and easier to use than some of its competitors. In particular, the super cold storage required for the Pfizer vaccine is not required.
The new vaccine will be given in a small number of hospitals for the first few days so authorities can watch out for side effects. However, the NHS announced that hundreds of new vaccination sites – including local doctor’s offices – will be opening later this week, joining the more than 700 vaccination sites already operating.
Both vaccines require two vaccinations, and Pfizer had recommended that the second dose be given within 21 days of the first. But the U. . K. . The Joint Vaccination and Immunization Committee said authorities should give the first dose of vaccine to as many people as possible, rather than putting shots aside to make sure others get two doses. The time between doses has been increased from 21 days to 12 weeks.
While two doses are required to fully protect against COVID-19, both vaccines offer high levels of protection after the first dose, the committee said. Making the first dose a priority « maximizes the benefits of the vaccination program in the short term, » it said.
Stephen Evans, a professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said policy makers are being forced to weigh the potential risks of this change against the benefits of a deadly pandemic.
« We have a crisis situation in the UK where a new variant is spreading rapidly and as everyone realized in 2020 this is delaying the cost of life, » Evans said. “When resources are limited on doses and people to be vaccinated, vaccinating more people with potentially less efficacy has been shown to be better than greater efficacy in just half. ”
Alone in England were on Sunday 24. 957 people with COVID-19 in hospitals. While the numbers for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have not been updated in the past few days, it is higher than the US. K. . – another peak during the first wave of the pandemic.
The government closed non-essential stores across London and parts of south-east England before Christmas in an attempt to contain the new variant. However, health officials say more stringent measures are needed now.
While schools in London are already closed due to high infection rates in the capital, students in many parts of the country returned to face-to-face classes on the Monday after the Christmas break. However, unions representing teachers have called for schools across England to remain closed for at least two weeks and that teaching be switched to distance learning.
But with vaccination there is hope. Brian Pinker, an 82-year-old dialysis patient, received the first shot from Oxford-AstraZeneca at 7:30 a.m.. m. at Oxford University Hospital.
« The nurses, doctors and staff today have all been brilliant, and I can really look forward to my 48th birthday later this year. Celebrating wedding anniversary with my wife Shirley, « Pinker said in a statement released by National Health service.
Boris Johnson, lockdown, coronavirus, UK
World News – AU – The British Prime Minister orders a new virus lock in England
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