Jan. 4 (UPI) — Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Monday a lockdown similar to what was conducted in March.
The new lockdown requires people to stay home except for limited reasons, such as shopping for essentials, exercise, working if unable to do so at home, seeking medical assistance or escaping domestic abuse.
In a televised address, Johnson said primary schools, secondary schools and colleges across England must move to remote settings with exceptions for vulnerable children of critical workers until February half term.
Though children aren’t as likely to suffer symptoms from the virus as adults, “schools may nonetheless act as vectors for transmissions, causing the virus to spread between households,” Johnson said.
He added full details on what are considered essential activities are listed on the government’s website.
Johnson said the lockdown was needed even though efforts were working to control the COVID-19 variant that prompted the last lockdown because “we now have a new variant of the virus, and it’s been both frustrating and alarming to see the speed in which the new variant is spreading.”
The new COVID-19 variant, according to scientists, is up to 70% more transmissible than the old variant.
“It’s clear that we need to do better to bring this new variant under control in England,” Johnson said. “We must therefore go into a national lockdown which is tough enough to contain this variant.”
Johnson cited some statistics about a recent surge in COVID-19 before announcing the lockdown.
“In England alone, COVID patients in hospitals has increased by nearly a third in the last week to almost 27,000, that number is 40% higher than the first peak in April,” Johnson said.
On Dec. 29, the United Kingdom reported more than 80,000 new cases of COVID-19 across, a new record.
“The number of deaths is up by 20% over the last week and will sadly rise further and my thoughts are with all those who lost loved ones,” Johnson said.
The announcement of the lockdown came on the same day that AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford were administering the first doses of COVID-19 vaccine.
Johnson also touched on vaccinations, saying that the National Health Service has set a mid-February goal for vaccinating all vulnerable residents, including those living in care homes, over age 70, and all frontline health workers.
“The weeks ahead will be the hardest yet, but I really do believe that we’re entering the last phase of the struggle because with every jab that goes into our arms we are tilting the arms against COVID, and in favor of the British people and thanks to the miracle of science not only is the end in sight but we know exactly how we will get there,” Johnson said.
On Sunday, First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon also introduced a national lockdown, requiring people to stay home and work from home if possible, and for schools to largely have remote learning.