Selasa, 05 Januari 2021

England lockdown set to drag on into March as hospitals battle contagious COVID-19 variant -

England is set to remain in lockdown until at least March, and some measures could stay in place for even longer, as hospitals struggle to cope with a highly contagious new strain of the coronavirus.

Announcing the lockdown on Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the restrictions were expected to last until the middle of February, when the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) hoped to have vaccinated priority groups including older care home residents and staff, over 70s, frontline health workers and the clinically extremely vulnerable.

But Cabinet Minister Michael Gove told Sky News on Tuesday that “we can’t predict with certainty that we will be able to lift restrictions in the week commencing February 15 to the 22”.

“What we will be doing is everything that we can to make sure that as many people as possible are vaccinated, so that we can begin to progressively lift restrictions,” he said.

“I think it is right to say that as we enter March we should be able to lift some of these restrictions, but not necessarily all.”

He called that “a significant, a stretching target” but one that could be achieved.

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Today the UK recorded 60,916 new cases, which is its highest ever daily total.

It also recorded 830 deaths, bringing the death toll from the last seven days to 4738. That is a 45 per cent rise in deaths compared to the previous week.

Scientists at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) say the National Health Service needs to vaccinate two million people a week to reduce the burden on hospitals, which doctors have warned are close to being overwhelmed.

Whether that ambitious figure is possible is not yet clear. Just over a million UK residents have so far been vaccinated since the Pfizer/BioNTech jab was approved a month ago. Distribution of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, which does not need to be stored at freezing temperatures, began on Monday.

Mr Gove told UK media the government would shortly be announcing new restrictions on international travel, as fears grow over new and more infectious COVID variants.

These could include travellers needing to produce a recent negative test, according to reports.

As well as the mutation identified as powering the latest outbreak in the UK, the first example of a South African variant was found this week in Australia.

Early data from the LSHTM on Monday found that the new COVID variant may be 50-74 per cent more transmissible than previous ones.

The UK has reported more than 50,000 new cases every day for the past week.

Mr Johnson, who was under pressure to take further action as infections skyrocketed and schools reopened, announced the new lockdown for England at 8pm on Monday.

Schools are now closed for almost all students and people are only able to leave their homes for essential reasons such as exercise and food shopping.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon earlier on Monday said that Scotland would enter a full lockdown for all of January from midnight local time.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak on Tuesday launched an extra £4.6 billion ($8.1 billion) package for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses hit hard by coronavirus lockdowns.

The Bank of England has slashed its interest rate to a record-low 0.1 per cent.

The head of the British Retail Consortium (BRC) welcomed the package but warned that UK businesses together faced losing £2 billion ($3.5 billion) in weekly sales.

“Already, 178,000 retail jobs have been lost in 2020, and with over 250,000 retail staff currently on furlough, that number could increase dramatically in the new year,” said BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson.

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2021-01-05 16:26:04Z

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