Watch: New lockdown in England as Covid-19 transmission rates rise

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that England will be going in lockdown for the third time as the new fast-spreading variant of Covid-19 has brought about a sharp rise in the spread of the pandemic.

The new measures have been announced after six days in which an excess of 50,000 infections were reported across the UK. The UK’s chief medical officers advised that such a state of affairs was unsustainable, and that hospitals risked being overwhelmed by Covid-19 patients if the situation remained unchanged.

In light of this, the UK government is telling people to stay at home except for specific reasons, including essential shopping, work – in case working remotely is not possible – exercising, seeking medical treatment and escaping domestic abuse.

English schools are moving to remote learning as from Tuesday, with Johnson observing that while children were unlikely to be affected by the new variant of Covid-19, they could nevertheless act as vectors of transmission.

The British PM also expressed hopes that vaccination could help provide a way out, noting how the pace of vaccination was accelerating with the approval of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine. The British government is hoping to provide the first dose of the vaccine to everyone in the top 4 priority categories by the middle of February, with Johnson stating that this could see England move out of lockdown by then and cautiously start loosening restrictions.

The UK government can only set Covid-19 restrictions in England: the measures in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are the responsibility of each nation’s devolved government. However, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon similarly announced that Scotland will go on lockdown at midnight, and in Wales, the reopening of schools after the Christmas holidays has been delayed until at least 18 January.