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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a new national lockdown on England until at least mid-February to combat a new, rapidly spreading variant of the coronavirus, even as Britain increased its vaccination schedule by becoming the first. nation to start using the developed vaccine. by the University of Oxford and the pharmaceutical AstraZeneca.

Johnson said people should stay home again, as they were ordered to do so in the first wave of the pandemic in March, this time because the new variant of the virus was spreading in a “frustrating and alarming” way.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a televised address to the nation from 10 Downing Street, London, on Monday, January 4, 2021, setting out new emergency measures to control the spread of the coronavirus in England. (Group via AP) (AP)

“As I speak to you tonight, our hospitals are under more pressure from COVID than at any time since the start of the pandemic,” he said.

Under the new rules, which will take effect as soon as possible, elementary and secondary schools and universities will be closed for face-to-face learning, except for the children of key workers. College students won’t be back until at least mid-February.

All non-essential stores and personal care services, such as hair salons, will be closed, and restaurants can only operate takeout services.

As of Monday, there were 26,626 COVID patients in hospitals in England, an increase of more than 30 percent from a week ago. That’s 40 percent above the peak of the first wave in the spring.

The UK is now overwhelmed by new virus cases with more than 20,000 people hospitalized. (AP)

The UK has seen an alarming rise in coronavirus cases in recent weeks as public health officials struggle to control the spread of a new variant of COVID-19 that is more contagious than previous variants. Authorities have recorded more than 50,000 new infections a day since they first passed that milestone on December 29. On Monday, they reported 407 virus-related deaths to bring the total confirmed death toll to 75,431, one of the worst in Europe.

UK medical chiefs warned that without further action, “there is a material risk that the National Health Service in various areas will be overwhelmed for the next 21 days.” Johnson said the UK must go to alert level five.

Hours earlier, Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon also imposed a blockade on her nation until the end of January.

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