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    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new complete lockdown for England from Wednesday until at least mid-February as the country struggles to contain the rising cases of the new mutant variant of the coronavirus.

    Johnson said the country is at “a critical moment”.

    “With most of the country already under extreme measures, it’s clear that we need to do more, together, to bring this new variant under control while our vaccines are rolled out,” Johnson said.

    “In England, we must therefore go into a national lockdown.”

    The new measures are expected to affect at least 56 million people, who are already living under strict restrictions, as the United Kingdom deals with one of the worst mortality rates from COVID-19 in the world. Scotland has also announced similar measures from Tuesday midnight.

    The measures, which are similar to those announced from March to June last year, include the closure of primary and secondary schools and colleges, all non-essential shops and personal care services, and restaurants will be allowed to operate only takeout services.

    People have been asked to work from home whenever possible and not leave their homes except for exercise, essential shopping and for medical supplies.

    Johnson said he hoped the restrictions could be lifted after the next school holidays in mid-February, adding that the weeks ahead “will be the hardest yet”.

    Britain has failed to halt an upward trend in positive cases. As of Monday, 26,626 people were in the hospital for COVID-19—40 per cent above the peak of the first wave of the outbreak in April last year.

    It has been reported that last Tuesday, more than 80,000 people tested positive in just 24 hours.

    However, he expressed hope in the COVID-19 vaccines, including the one developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, as vulnerable groups are expected to be inoculated in the coming weeks.

    “With every jab that goes into our arms, we are tilting the odds against COVID and in favour of the British people,” he added.

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