London: Britain’s jam-packed hospitals are three weeks away from being overwhelmed as a mutant strain of coronavirus sets off record spikes in cases and triggers a third national lockdown

Prime Minister Boris Johnson resisted allegations that the government was not acting quickly or decisively enough to tackle Europe’s deadly second wave On Monday evening the UK said “a crucial moment is ahead” and the weeks ahead will be “the toughest yet” in the pandemic

“Our hospitals have been under more pressure from COVID since the pandemic began than ever before,” he said

“In England alone, the number of COVID patients in hospitals has fallen by almost a third to almost 27 in the past week000, and that number is 40 percent higher than the first high in April “

He said England would return to its toughest lockdown since the beginning of the pandemic last March.People are only allowed by law to leave their homes to buy essentials, medical treatment, domestic violence escape or go to work if absolutely necessary

Schools are also being closed, although ministers have repeatedly argued that the societal cost of denial of personal education is not worth the benefits of closing

Great Britain has 59 on Monday000 new cases announced – for the seventh straight day, more than 50000 cases registered

New figures show that on Jan. December more than 80000 people tested positive as a new variant soars across the UK

Scientists believe the mutant strain, named VUI – 202012/01, is between 50 and 70 percent more transmissible.There is some early evidence that the new variant is more likely to spread in children than existing strains

Daily coronavirus hospital admissions hit 3145 on Monday – a number that dwarfed the worst day of the first wave

As many people are now on ventilators in the south east of England as they were at the height of the first wave. The total hospital admissions in this region are also nearly twice as high as last year

Hours before Johnson’s announcement, chief medical officers for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland issued a statement warning that many parts of the healthcare system were “already under immense pressure”

“We’re not confident that the NHS can handle another sustained surge in cases and, without further action, there is a significant risk that the NHS will become overwhelmed in several areas over the next 21 days,” they said

The COVID alert level, separate from the UK tiered restriction regime, has been raised to five, indicating the healthcare system is on the verge of flooding

The existing number of cases does not yet include an expected increase in the household mix over Christmas and New Year’s Eve

The Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon also ordered a lockdown on Monday and warned Scotland about four weeks behind the enormous infection rates in London

“It is no exaggeration to say that I am more concerned about the situation we are facing now than I have been since March,” said Sturgeon

Other countries hit by Europe’s second wave like France, Italy and Spain have managed to reverse their skyrocketing infection rates, but the numbers in the UK have continued to rise rapidly

London and other parts of England have been tightly restricted for almost two weeks now, but infections are showing no signs of slowing

Brian Pinker, 82, receives the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine from Nurse Sam Foster at Churchill Hospital in OxfordCredit: Getty

Some scientists fear that the outbreak is now so widespread and the new strain so difficult to control that the introduction of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines will be the only way to combat the second wave

Johnson suggested the new lockdown could last at least until the end of February At this point, the top four priority groups for vaccination – all nursing home residents and their caregivers, all frontline health and social workers, anyone over the age of 70, and anyone classified as clinically susceptible – should have received the first of two doses

“The coming weeks are going to be the most difficult, but I really believe we are entering the final phase of the struggle because with every push that goes into our arms we are tipping the balance against COVID and in favor of the British people, “he said

“But now I’m afraid you need to stay home and protect the NHS and save lives”

Earlier, Professor Andrew Pollard, Director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, had said Britain had reached a “critical moment” despite the new vaccines

“We are on the verge of being overwhelmed by this disease I think it gives us a bit of hope, but we have some difficult weeks ahead of us”

The UK gave the first shot of the Pfizer vaccine to 1 million people and started issuing the Oxford-AstraZeneca stab on Monday

Brian Pinker, an 82-year-old dialysis patient, was the first to receive the approved push

Parliament was called back from its New Year break to vote on the measures on Wednesday

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World News – AU – Great Britain enters third national lockdown as coronavirus spiral out of control