Following the identification of a new Covid-19 variant in the UK, some scientific advisors are calling for another England-wide lockdown.
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The devolved UK nations have already ordered national lockdowns, with Wales having implemented these rules from last Sunday, following the announcement of the reviewed Christmas rules.
It is not yet clear what England will do. Scientific advisors have said that failure to go into lockdown could cause an “economic, human and social disaster”.
In a Monday press conference, Prime Minister Boris Johnson aimed to assure world leaders the British government had taken the necessary action in an attempt to curb the spread of Covid-19 and specifically the new variant.
He said, “I hope that everybody can see that as soon as we were briefed as a government of the fast transmissibility of this new strain … we lodged all the necessary information with the World Health Organization. And we took prompt and decisive action the very next day to curb the spread of the variant within the UK.”
Professor of emerging infectious diseases at Oxford University, Peter Horby, said of the new strain, “We still don’t understand the exact biological mechanisms.”
“There’s still a lot of uncertainty about exactly how it’s occurring, and exactly the extent of the extra transmissibility.”
Scientists are concerned the UK is heading towards levels of the first-wave peak of hospital admissions and deaths, and say the variant is not likely to be contained exclusively to the south and east of England.
Mainland Scotland will move into tier 4 – effectively a national lockdown - from Boxing Day. Those living under tier three and four restrictions should not travel outside of their local areas. Pubs and restaurants cannot open in tier four regions. In tier three, hospitality venues can open, but no alcohol can be sold.
These travel restrictions are exempt only for essentials such as work, essential shopping for food and medicine, healthcare responsibilities or visiting someone in your support bubble or household.
Northern Ireland will also be entering into a national lockdown for six weeks, also from Boxing Day. There will be updates on which businesses and facilities will be allowed to remain open. Northern Ireland has also put a travel ban on visitors from England.
More than 40 countries have now banned travel from the UK after the new strain of Covid-19 was announced. French President Emmanuel Macron placed a ban on freight and passengers arriving from the UK on Monday. Johnson and Macron are said to be speaking regularly to try and find a solution. However, the borders remain shut.
Meanwhile, in England, Greater Manchester's directors of public health released a statement that said anyone arriving in the region from a tier 4 region in England or from Wales should self-isolate for ten days after arrival.