England under new lockdown in response to highly transmissible coronavirus variant

Canada World

The latest:

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday a new national lockdown for England until at least mid-February to combat a fast-spreading new variant of the coronavirus, even as Britain ramped up its vaccination program by becoming the first nation to start using the shot developed by Oxford University and drugmaker AstraZeneca.

Johnson said people must stay at home again, as they were ordered to do so in the first wave of the pandemic in March, this time because the new virus variant was spreading 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,” he said.

Under the new rules, which are set to come into effect as soon as possible, primary and secondary schools and colleges will be closed for face-to-face learning except for the children of key workers. University students will not be returning until at least mid-February.

WATCH | Johnson announces new lockdown for England:

Measures enacted due to an alarming spike in COVID-19 cases across Britain, aided by the new, rapidly spreading variant of the virus. 2:22

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

As of Monday, there were 26,626 COVID-19 patients in hospitals in England, an increase of more than 30 per cent from a week ago. That is 40 per cent above the highest level of the first wave in the spring.

Large areas of England were already under tight restrictions as officials try to control an alarming surge in coronavirus cases in recent weeks, blamed on a new variant of COVID-19 that is more contagious than existing variants. Authorities have recorded more than 50,000 new infections daily since passing that milestone for the first time on Dec. 29. On Monday, they reported 407 virus-related deaths to push the confirmed death toll total to 75,431, one of the worst in Europe.

The U.K.’s chief medical officers warned that without further action, “there is a material risk of the National Health Service in several areas being overwhelmed over the next 21 days.”

Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon also said that starting Tuesday, people in Scotland are legally required to stay at home except for essential reasons to curb a renewed surge of coronavirus infections. She told lawmakers on Monday that Scotland will be placed in lockdown for at least the whole of January to help ease the pressure on hospitals and intensive care units.

Meanwhile, Ireland’s hospitals chief said Monday that the country’s facilities cannot manage the current trajectory of its fast-growing COVID-19 outbreak and will cancel most non-urgent procedures this week to create as much spare critical-care space as possible.


What’s happening across Canada

As of 6:30 p.m. ET Monday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 611,423, with 77,465 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 16,074.

British Columbia recorded 2,211 new COVID-19 cases over the past four days, along with 45 more deaths.

In Alberta, Premier Jason Kenney said Monday he has accepted the resignations of Grande Prairie MLA Tracy Allard as minister of municipal affairs and of Jamie Huckabay, his chief of staff. In a Facebook post on Monday, Kenney said he has also demoted five other United Conservative Party MLAs who travelled internationally over the holidays. 

Alberta’s minister of municipal affairs, Tracy Allard, has resigned after travelling to Hawaii. In a Facebook post on Monday, Alberta Premier Kenney said he has also demoted five other United Conservative Party MLAs who travelled internationally over the holidays. (Paul Taillon/Office of the Premier)

Alberta on Monday reported more than 5,100 new cases of COVID-19 over the past five days as it resumed reporting Monday. The province also announced 96 deaths related to COVID-19 since Dec. 29, including its first death of a health-care worker.

In Saskatchewan, Premier Scott Moe accepted Joe Hargrave’s resignation from his positions as minister of highways and minister responsible for the water security agency after it emerged he travelled to Palm Springs, Calif., over the holidays. Hargrave will remain a provincial representative. 

Meanwhile, the province recorded 286 more cases of COVID-19 and the deaths of two seniors on Monday.

Manitoba announced 118 new infections and five new deaths on Monday.

Ontario reported 3,270 new COVID-19 cases and 29 new deaths on Monday. With the new cases, the province’s seven-day average of daily cases is approaching 3,000 for the first time, and the number of patients hospitalized jumped considerably to 1,190. Of those, 333 are being treated in intensive care, while 194 require the use of a ventilator.

The province also reported three new cases of the coronavirus variant first found in the U.K., bringing its total to six.

Just before noon, the first person to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in the province — personal support worker Anita Quidangen — received her second dose at Toronto’s University Health Network, 21 days after the first dose.

Premier Doug Ford was on hand to witness the event and said Ontario is going “full steam forward” with its vaccination efforts. More than 42,000 vaccine doses had been administered in Ontario as of Sunday, according to provincial data. A provincewide lockdown remains in effect as elementary school students returned to school online Monday.

WATCH | Ford says Ontario ramping up vaccine rollout:

Ontario Premier Doug Ford promised a ‘significant difference’ in the speed of Ontario’s vaccine rollout, as health-care workers began receiving their second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. 0:34

Marit Stiles, the NDP’s education critic, said in an interview with CBC Toronto that the Ontario government doesn’t know how many students in publicly funded schools are asymptomatic across the province and that a “comprehensive testing strategy” is needed.

In an open letter to parents released on the weekend, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said that “schools are not a source of rising community transmission,” according to medical experts. 

Toronto also announced new measures to publish details on COVID-19 in workplaces. Businesses will need to “immediately notify” Toronto Public Health as soon as they become aware of two or more employees with COVID-19 and designate a contact person.

In Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick reported 17 new cases on Monday, while Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new case, breaking a five-day streak without any new infections.

WATCH | Educators find innovative ways to teach outside the classroom:

The pandemic has forced educators across Canada to find innovative new ways to teach from a distance. 2:06

Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia did not report any new cases on Sunday.

Some Halifax-area restaurants were scrambling over the weekend to prepare for reopening after the province announced on New Year’s Eve that restaurants and bars would be allowed to offer dine-in service again starting on Monday.

Quebec reported 2,546 new cases of COVID-19 and 32 more deaths on Monday. There were 1,294 people in hospital with the illness, including 188 in intensive care.

More than 30,000 people in the province had received the first dose of the two-dose COVID-19 vaccine as of Sunday.

The provincial government has given the green light for the Vancouver Canucks to play home games in the province during the upcoming 2021 NHL season.

WATCH | Infectious diseases specialist on essential workers and the risk of COVID-19:

Air travel is a concern but not the main driver of higher COVID-19 numbers in Ontario, says infectious disease specialist Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti. He says cases are still rising in parts of the province because lockdowns do not address the problems of essential workers getting the virus at work and bringing it home. 2:50

In the North, Nunavut reported no new active cases on Monday, leaving it with zero. However, a resident who travelled to Winnipeg to give birth died Sunday. She contracted COVID-19 after having a caesarean section. She had been on breathing support for more than a month.

Yukon also did not report any new cases on Sunday, while the N.W.T. did not provide updated figures over the weekend.

Here’s a look at what’s happening with COVID-19 across the country:

WATCH | B.C. gives green light for in-province NHL games:

B.C is now the second province to approve the NHL’s COVID-19 safety plans to host games in the province once the season begins on Jan. 13. With three more provinces still to decide, a doctor weighs in about those plans. 1:33

What’s happening around the world

As of Monday afternoon, more than 85.5 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide with more than 47.9 million cases considered recovered or resolved, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tracking tool. The global death toll stood at more than 1.8 million.

A government worker gestures as another worker sprays disinfectant on a street in Bangkok, Thailand, on Monday. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Meanwhile, France’s cautious approach to its vaccine rollout appears to have backfired, leaving just a few hundred people vaccinated after the first week and rekindling anger over the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

President Emmanuel Macron was scheduled to hold a special meeting with top government officials on Monday afternoon to address the vaccine strategy and other virus developments.

In France, a country of 67 million people, just 516 people were vaccinated in the first six days, while Germany’s first-week total surpassed 200,000 and Italy’s was over 100,000.

In Asia-Pacific, Sri Lankan authorities on Monday announced that schools will partially reopen starting next week, after being closed for nearly three months due to a COVID-19 surge. The Education Ministry has decided to keep schools closed in the capital Colombo and surrounding suburbs.

Mask-wearing has become mandatory is some circumstances in Australia’s largest city due to the pandemic risk. People risk a 200 Australian dollar ($196 Cdn) fine in Sydney if they don’t wear masks in shopping malls, on public transport and in various indoor areas.

Thailand has registered 745 new coronavirus cases, with a new death reported in Bangkok, where a semi-lockdown went into effect. The government has ordered all schools closed from Monday but has not yet closed down shopping malls or stores, while restaurants are still allowed to operate but cannot serve alcoholic beverages.

Medical team members conduct COVID-19 testing in Bogota, Colombia, last week. The capital will implement strict two-week quarantines in three neighbourhoods beginning on Tuesday. (Luisa Gonzalez/Reuters)

In the Americas, Brazil confirmed on Monday its first cases of the coronavirus variant first discovered in the United Kingdom. Two cases were reported in Sao Paulo state.

The U.S. health and human services secretary is shooting down the idea of expanding the number of Americans getting a COVID-19 vaccine by giving them only one dose instead of the two being administered now.

Some health experts have suggested that, with vaccine supplies short, people might get partial protection from a single dose and that should be considered as a way to reach far more people faster. But Alex Azar said “the data just isn’t there to support that and we’re not going to do that.”

Azar said the U.S. has reported 1.5 million vaccinations in the last 72 hours, a “very rapid uptick” that he predicts will continue.

Colombia’s capital, Bogota, will implement strict two-week quarantines in three neighbourhoods beginning on Tuesday to try to control a second wave of coronavirus.

In the Middle East, Jordan has struck a deal with Pfizer and partner BioNTech to buy one million doses of their COVID-19 vaccine and another two million doses from the World Health Organization’s s COVAX program.

In Africa, South Africa is aiming to get COVID-19 vaccines by next month but is still in talks with pharmaceutical companies and no deals have yet been signed.

The country remains the hardest hit on the continent, with more than 1.1 million cases and more than 29,000 deaths reported since the start of the pandemic.

Leave a Reply