England to go back into COVID-19 lockdown from midnight – BBC

A government public health information message is seen on a roadside sign, in London
A government public health information message is seen on a roadside sign, amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in London, Britain January 4, 2021. REUTERS/Toby Melville

January 4, 2021

By William Schomberg, Alistair Smout and Guy Faulconbridge

LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to announce later on Monday a new coronavirus lockdown for all of England similar to the one imposed when the pandemic hit the country in March, the BBC reported.

The measures would include school closures for most pupils and people would be asked to work from home unless they are unable to do their jobs remotely or are key workers, the BBC said, adding the measures would come into effect from midnight.

Johnson is due to deliver a televised address to the nation at 2000 GMT.

Earlier on Monday, his government touted a scientific “triumph” as Britain became the first country in the world to start vaccinating its population with Oxford University and AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 shot.

Dialysis patient Brian Pinker, 82, received the first Oxford/AstraZeneca shot outside of a trial.

“I am so pleased to be getting the COVID vaccine today and really proud that it is one that was invented in Oxford,” said Pinker, a retired maintenance manager, just a few hundred metres from where the vaccine was developed.

Britain is grappling with the world’s sixth highest death toll and one of the worst economic hits from the COVID-19 crisis. More than 75,000 people in the United Kingdom have died from COVID-19 within 28 days of a positive test.

It was the first country to roll out the vaccine developed by Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech almost a month ago, and is prioritising getting a first dose of vaccines to as many people as possible over giving second doses.

Some experts say they are worried about such an approach.

Two new variants of the coronavirus are complicating the COVID-19 response and Britain has seen a resurgence in cases to new daily highs.

UK scientists have expressed concern that the vaccines being rolled out may not be able to protect against a new variant of the coronavirus that emerged in South Africa and has spread internationally.

Britain’s parliament will be recalled on Wednesday to debate the lockdown measures.

Moving ahead of Johnson, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon earlier on Monday imposed the most stringent lockdown for Scotland since last spring.

(Additional reporting by Elizabeth Piper, Writing by William James, Guy Faulconbridge and Alistair Smout; Editing by Kate Holton, Nick Macfie, Mike Collett-White and Gareth Jones)