LONDON – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned on Sunday that further onerous lockdown restrictions are likely in England in the coming weeks as the country depends on a new coronavirus variant that has taken infection rates to their highest recorded levels.
However, Johnson insisted he “had no doubt” that schools are safe and urged parents to send their children back to the classroom in areas of England where they can. Unions representing teachers encourage schools to devote at least a few weeks to distance learning more because of the new variant that scientists have said is up to 70% more contagious.
The UK is in the middle of an acute outbreak with more than 50,000 new coronavirus infections daily for the past six days. Another 54,990 cases were recorded on Sunday, a slight decrease from the previous day’s record of 57,725. The country also recorded an additional 454 deaths from viruses, bringing the total to 75,024. According to the Johns Hopkins University, Britain is switching to Italy as the worst-hit European nation.
“We are completely reconciled to doing what it takes to get the virus under control, which may require tougher measures in the coming weeks,” Johnson said in an interview with the BBC. “Obviously there are a number of tougher measures that we would have to consider.”
Johnson acknowledged school closings, curfews, and an outright mixed household ban could be on the agenda for the most polluted areas.
London and south east England are facing extremely high levels of new infections and it is speculated that restrictions there will have to be tightened to get the virus under control. There are more than 1,000 cases per 100,000 people in some parts of the UK capital and the surrounding area.
Johnson’s Conservative government uses a tiered coronavirus containment system. Most of England is already at the top level 4, which includes closing shops that do not sell non-essential items and places such as gyms and leisure centers, as well as home instruction.
“What we’re using now is the tiering system, which is a very tough system and unfortunately it’s likely to get tougher to keep things under control,” he said. “We’re going to review and the prospect is that tens of millions of vaccines will hit the market and literally bring people life and hope.”
Opposition Labor Party leader Keir Starmer called on Johnson to introduce more national restrictions the next day, despite no longer calling for schools to be closed as he said he would “not contribute to the” chaos “expected on Will show up on Monday.
“The virus is clearly out of control,” Starmer said. “” We cannot allow the Prime Minister to spend the next two or three weeks and then put in a national lockdown, which is inevitable. “
Starmer also said it was inevitable that more schools will close and urged the government to come up with a plan for both students and working parents.
One area where the UK has been moving fast is the vaccination front. It was the first company to start vaccinating people over 80 and healthcare workers with the Pfizer BioNTech coronavirus vaccine on December 8th. Last week, regulators approved another vaccine from Oxford University and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca that is cheaper and easier to use than the Pfizer vaccine.
Hundreds of new vaccination sites are slated to go live this week as the National Health Service steps up its vaccination program with the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot. According to official figures, around 530,000 doses of the new vaccine will be given on Monday as the country gets closer to its goal of vaccinating 2 million people a week as soon as possible.
The vaccine against Oxford-AstraZeneca will be given in a small number of hospitals for the first few days so authorities can watch out for side effects. Hundreds of new vaccination sites – both in hospitals and local doctor’s offices – are slated to open this week, joining the more than 700 already operating, NHS England said.
In a move away from practices in the US and elsewhere, the UK plans to give people a second dose of both vaccines within 12 weeks of the first shot instead of 21 days in order to get vaccinations on as many people as possible as quickly as possible accelerate.
“My mother, as well as you or your elderly loved ones, may be affected by this decision, but it is still right for the nation as a whole,” the government’s assistant chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said in an article for the Mail on Sunday newspaper.