The UK’s new year is starting with another lockdown. On 4th January, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that a new lockdown will go into effect in England due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The latest lockdown comes in response to a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases following the discovery of a new variant of the coronavirus in December—one that is believed to spread more quickly. Over 50,000 new infections have been reported each day since 29th December, raising concern among the UK’s chief medical officers that, without government intervention, the NHS would become overwhelmed in the weeks to come.
As of 4th January, there were 26,626 patients in English hospitals due to COVID-19. This figure represented a 30 per cent increase from one week earlier, as well as a 40 per cent increase compared with peak levels of hospitalisations during the pandemic’s first wave last spring. Thus far, there have been over 75,000 coronavirus-related deaths in the UK.
Under the new restrictions, people will be required to remain sheltered in their homes except for the following reasons:
To work, if working from home is not possible
To shop for essentials, such as groceries and medical supplies
To exercise once a day in a local area
To provide care or aid
To attend medical appointments or receive medical care, such as a coronavirus test
To flee the threat of harm or violence
During lockdown, all primary and secondary schools and colleges will be required to move to online learning. Additionally, all non-essential shops and services, such as hairdressers, must close. Restaurants will no longer be able to offer in-person dining, although takeaway services can continue.
This nationwide lockdown will replace the government’s tier system, which had previously attempted to gauge the appropriate level of restrictions for specific areas.
Lockdown is expected to last until at least the middle of February.