England is once again in lockdown.
On Monday evening, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new national lockdown for England in an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19, the Associated Press reported. The lockdown, he noted, will last until at least mid-February.
“I completely understand the inconvenience and distress this change will cause millions of people and parents up and down the country,” Johnson said in his announcement. “The problem isn’t that schools are unsafe for children … the problem is that schools may act as vectors of transmission, causing the virus to spread between households.”
With the order, residents are required to stay home in the same way they were at the beginning of the outbreak in March. This, he noted, is due to the alarming rise in cases as well as the new virus variant that is taking hold of the nation.
“As I speak to you tonight, our hospitals are under more pressure from COVID than at any time since the start of the pandemic,” Johnson said.
With the new lockdown, primary and secondary schools, as well as colleges, will be closed for any in-person learning (with the exception of the children of critical workers and vulnerable pupils), according to the Associated Press.
Nonessential shops will also be forced to close, and all personal care services will cease. Restaurants will not be able to offer in-person dining but will remain open for takeout service.
“The number of deaths is up by 20% over the last week and will sadly rise further,” Johnson said. “With most of the country already under extreme measures, it’s clear that we need to do more together to bring this new variant under control while our vaccines are rolled out.”
There is, however, one bright spot with this announcement, and that is the fact that unlike the previous lockdowns, this one is coming with a new vaccine. As The New York Times reported, England is also now deploying the Oxford-developed AstraZeneca vaccine, which is both cheaper and more stable than its counterparts.
“There’s one huge difference compared to last year. We’re now rolling out the biggest vaccination program in our history,” Johnson said, adding that the vaccine will soon be available to the most vulnerable populations. “If we succeed in vaccinating all those groups, we will have removed huge numbers of people from the path of the virus. And of course, that will eventually enable us to lift many of the restrictions we have endured for so long.”
Stacey Leasca is a journalist, photographer, and media professor. Send tips and follow her on Instagram now.
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