Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed a strict new national lockdown on Monday as Britain’s desperate race to vaccinate its population risked being overtaken by a fast-spreading variant of the coronavirus that was on track to overwhelm the nation’s beleaguered hospitals.
The UK Government warned that this new lockdown would remain effective till mid February.
All schools, except nurseries, must close under the rules. Johnson announced this just nine hours after insisting “schools are safe” as he defended the reopening of primary schools.
Some exams will be cancelled as a result of the closures, with “alternative arrangements” being organised, Johnson said. Pupils entitled to receive free school meals will continue to receive them.
The PM’s lockdown announcement comes after the UK’s chief medical officers warned: “Cases are rising almost everywhere… without further action there is a material risk of the NHS in several areas being overwhelmed over the next 21 days.”
More dire coronavirus figures had been released yesterday, with a record 57,784 lab-confirmed infections recorded in the UK.
The latest figures also show a 41% rise in the number of confirmed COVID-19 patients in hospital in England between 25 December and 3 January.
Meanwhile, the UK’s COVID alert has been level to five – the highest possible – meaning “transmission is high or rising exponentially” and “there is a material risk of healthcare services being overwhelmed”. Johnson’s fresh lockdown came hours after Nicola Sturgeon also imposed national restrictions in Scotland.