LONDON: Millions more people will be waking to harsher coronavirus restrictions on Boxing Day when new tier changes come into force in England.New lockdowns are set to be introduced in Scotland and Northern Ireland, while restrictions that were eased for Christmas Day in Wales will be reimposed on Saturday.
Those in the strict tier 4 in England will increase by 6 million to 24 million people, representing 43% of the population, in response to a more transmissible variant being discovered in the UK. It comes after the government said a further 570 died within 28 days of testing positive for the virus as of Christmas Day, taking the UK’s total deaths within 28 days of a positive test to 70,195.
Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies for deaths where Covid-19 has been mentioned on the death certificate, together with additional data on deaths that have occurred in recent days, show there have now been 86,000 deaths involving Covid-19 in the UK. There were also 32,725 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK, bringing to 244,146 the number of positive tests in the past seven days.
The new measures were being imposed against a backdrop of increasing infections, hospital admissions and a new more contagious variant in the UK which was announced last week.
Areas moving into tier 4 are Sussex, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, parts of Essex not yet in the highest tier, Waverley in Surrey and Hampshire, with the exception of the New Forest.
Tier-4 restrictions include a warning to stay at home, a limit on household mixing to two people outdoors and the forced closure of many shops, hairdressers and gyms.
The measures come on top of tier-3 restrictions such as the closure of pubs and restaurants, except for takeaways and deliveries. Bristol, Gloucestershire,
Somerset including the North Somerset council area, Swindon, the Isle of Wight, the New Forest and Northamptonshire, as well as Cheshire and Warrington, will all be escalated to tier 3. Elsewhere, Cornwall and Herefordshire move from tier 1 to tier 2.
Mainland Scotland will enter level-4 restrictions from Saturday, with the Scottish government intending the increased measures to last for three weeks.
In Northern Ireland, a six-week lockdown has begun. The first week’s measures are the toughest yet, with a form of curfew in operation from 8pm, shops closed from that time and all indoor and outdoor gatherings prohibited until 6 am.
Non-essential retail will close throughout the next six weeks, as will close-contact services, while hospitality outlets will be limited to takeaway services.
Meanwhile, countries around Europe were on Saturday preparing to roll out their first coronavirus vaccines even as a reputedly more contagious variant spreads around the world, forcing some nations back into lockdown.
The impending inoculation campaigns have boosted hopes that 2021 could bring a respite from the pandemic, which has killed more than 1.7 million people since emerging in China late last year.
First doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine arrived in EU countries including hard-hit Italy, Spain and France early on Saturday, ready for distribution to retirement homes and care staff.
“We’ll get our freedom back, we’ll be able to embrace again,” Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said as he urged his countrymen to get the shot.
But polls show only 57 percent of Italians intend to get the jab whereas scientists estimate herd immunity can only be reached if 75 to 80 percent have it.
Vaccinations in all 27 European Union countries are set to begin on Sunday, after regulators approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on December 21.
But a new strain that emerged in Britain and spread rapidly has sent jitters through already overstretched health services as countries from Sweden to Japan have reported cases.
Austria began its third national lockdown on Saturday and millions also woke to tougher restrictions in Britain, where the vaccine rollout has already begun.
France, Spain and Sweden are among the countries confirming that the new virus strain has reached their shores.
French officials said late on Friday that a Frenchman living in Britain had tested positive after arriving from London, adding that he was not showing symptoms and was isolating.
Four cases were confirmed in Madrid on Saturday, though the patients were not seriously ill, the Madrid regional government’s deputy health chief Antonio Zapatero said, adding “there is no need for alarm”.
Source: The News