Published on : Tuesday, January 5, 2021
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has imposed a third coronavirus lockdown across England, shutting schools and ordering the public to stay at home, amid dire warnings that the National Health Service is being pushed to breaking point.
The full emergency lockdown will start immediately and last until at least February 15, potentially devastating retail and hospitality businesses and threatening to push the economy into a double-dip recession, as doctors try to get a grip on the pandemic.
In a televised address to the nation, the prime minister insisted he had no option but to close down all social activities, education and non-essential travel in the face of a sudden and severe surge in infections.
“Our hospitals are under more pressure from Covid[-19] than at any time since the start of the pandemic,” Johnson said in the broadcast. “With most of the country already under extreme measures it’s clear that we need to do more to to bring this new variant under control while our vaccines are rolled out.”
The police will have legal power to use fines and dispersal orders to enforce the rules, which are likely to be in place for the next two months, officials said. Parliament will be recalled to debate the measures on Wednesday but the regulations are due to become law on Tuesday.
The prime minister was forced to act after data showed new infections soaring past 50,000 a day and more people in hospital than in the first peak of the virus in April.
By January 4, there were 26,626 patients in hospital with Covid-19, a 30 per cent increase in a week, which the government is blaming on a surge in infections from a new, faster spreading strain of the virus.
Johnson resisted pressure from scientists and opposition lawmakers to lockdown the whole country in December. He cut back plans to allow families to mix over Christmas, but insisted he wanted to avoid nationwide curbs like those seen in March, choosing to keep a regional tier system in place instead.