UK to have ‘difficult’ times as PM refuses to rule out national lockdown
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has refused to rule out another national lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, as a new more infectious variant of the deadly virus is now circulating in the country and around the world.
Asked if he could rule out a national lockdown after Christmas, Johnson Thursday said the battle against coronavirus will “continue to be difficult” in the New Year.
“Obviously we face very considerable new pressures, particularly from the new variant and the speed with which that’s been spreading,” he said. “I do think it is necessary for us to grip this virus now,” he added.
The UK death toll from coronavirus rose by 574, with a further 39,036 cases, on Thursday. Some 2,143 COVID-19 patients were admitted to hospital on Thursday.
Over the past seven days, a total of 239,928 people have tested positive for the disease.
The latest figure brings the total number of fatalities to 69,625, and the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 to 2,195,144 across the UK, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
An analysis by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows around half of all new coronavirus cases in England could be the new mutation of the virus, which first emerged in Britain, and has sparked panic across Europe.
The discovery of the new variant of the coronavirus, known as VUI-202012/01, has prompted a pre-Christmas lockdown and forced dozens of countries to close their borders to British travelers this week.
The mutated strain of the virus, which is believed to be up to 70% more transmissible, has so far been identified in Denmark, the Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Australia and Israel.
The United States became the latest country, among 40 nations, to announce new travel restrictions from the UK.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced late Thursday that airline passengers from Britain will be required to get a negative COVID-19 test within three days of their flight.
The order will be signed Friday and go into effect on Monday, according to the CDC.
“If a passenger chooses not to take a test, the airline must deny boarding to the passenger,” said the order.
The travel restrictions from the UK have raised concerns over the lack of fresh food and supplies in the country.
The head of the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), Ian Wright, warned that the border closures had the “potential to cause serious disruption to UK Christmas fresh food supplies — and exports of UK food and drink.”
The Director of food & sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, Andrew Opie, also said the closure of “France to UK traffic, including accompanied freight poses difficulties for UK capacity to import and export key goods during the busy Christmas period.”
“While goods can enter from France, few haulage firms will be willing to send trucks and drivers across to the UK without a guarantee they can return to the EU in a timely manner,” he added.
Johnson has already come under fire for implementing the restrictive rules without parliamentary approval.
Protests have been erupted in the country against the measures over the past weeks.
London, home to almost 9 million people, was added to the British government’s COVID-19 watchlist as an “area of concern” in September.