On Monday, United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new national lockdown for England, despite Britain’s efforts to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine developed by the drugmaker AstraZeneca and Oxford University.
The latest lockdown will last until mid-February at the earliest and is England’s latest effort to combat the new so-called super-spreader coronavirus strain, the Associated Press reported. Johnson said the new virus is transmitting in a “frustrating and alarming” way.
“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.
The new lockdown will once again require individuals to stay home, echoing the lockdowns implemented in early March last year.
The new rules will limit primary and secondary schools, as well as colleges, to remote learning, and will close all nonessential shops and services. Restaurants will be required to operate takeout services only.
The U.K.’s chief medical officials advised lawmakers to act, noting that “there is material risk of the National Health Service in several areas being overwhelmed over the next 21 days.”
Hours before Johnson’s announcement, Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s leader, imposed a similar lockdown, saying, “I am more concerned about the situation we face now than I have been at any time since March last year.”
As of January 4, the United Kingdom has had 2.65 million cases of coronavirus, with 75,024 deaths linked to the disease. The U.K. has a population of roughly 66 million people.
The United States’ first case of a new “super spreader” strain of COVID-19 was confirmed by state health officials in Colorado last week.
Colorado health officials said the case involved a male in his 20s “who is currently in isolation” and has “no travel history.”
According to CBS News, public health labs regularly detect coronavirus variants in patients, with many mutations not impacting how it spreads or its symptoms
Following the U.K.’s discovery of the new strain, President Trump’s administration implemented rules requiring travelers from Great Britain test negative for COVID-19 prior to boarding U.S. flights.
This week, researchers in the U.K. found that the variant was more transmissible, but not more deadly. It has also not lead to more hospitalizations or increased the likelihood of reinfection.
According to both Pfizer and Moderna, the vaccines will likely provide protection against the new strain, having tested their shots against several variants.