London | Jagran News Desk: Alarmed with the surge in infections and hospitalisations due to the more transmissible variant of COVID-19 across the United Kingdom, PM Boris Johnson on Tuesday announced a lockdown across the country to contain the spread of the deadly virus.

"Since the pandemic began last year, the whole of United Kingdom has been engaged in a great national effort to fight COVID and there is no doubt that in fighting the old variant of the virus, our collective efforts are working and would have continued to work. But we now have a new variant of the virus, and it has been both frustrating and alarming to see the speed with which the new variant is spreading," Johnson said as quoted by news agency ANI.

"Our hospitals are under more pressure from COVID than at any time since the start of the pandemic. In England alone, the number of COVID patients in hospitals has increased by nearly a third in the last week to almost 27,000 and that number is 40 per cent higher than the first peak in April," he added.

The announcement by Boris Johnson followed an announcement by Scotland to impose a lockdown in the country on Monday. Meanwhile, Wales and Northern Ireland, the two other nations in the United Kingdom were already in a lockdown. 

Johnson said that he hopes that the country may fare well against the recent surge by February and inoculate the first vaccine dose to everyone in top four groups identified by the authorities. Johnson also pointed out that the number of deaths in the country over the last week were up by 20 per cent and will rise further.

"By the middle of February if things go well, and with a wind in our sails, we expect to have offered the first vaccine dose to everyone in the four top priority groups identified by the Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation."

"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. In England, we must therefore go into a national lockdown which is tough enough to contain this variant. That means the government is once again instructing you to stay at home," he said.

Johnson said that citizens may be permitted to leave home for limited reasons such as "shop for essentials, seek medical assistance or to escape domestic abuse".

He announced that primary schools, secondary schools, and colleges across England will move to remote permit provision starting Tuesday, except for vulnerable children and the children of key workers. The UK Prime Minister said that outdoor sports venues will have to close. But unlike spring's lockdown, nurseries will not be shuttered, elite sports can go ahead, and places of worship will remain open on the basis that attendees adhere to social distancing rules.


(With Agencies Inputs)

Posted By: Talibuddin Khan