U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a coronavirus lockdown in England until mid-February, as the country faces surging cases, deaths and hospitalizations and a new variant of the virus.
Johnson’s announcement came during a televised press conference on Monday night, following a lockdown in Scotland.
“It is clear that we need to do more to bring this new variant under control,” the prime minister said. “That means the government is once again instructing you to stay at home.”
He continued, “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 the national lockdown will last until February 15.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivers a televised address to the nation on January 4 in which he announced a new coronavirus lockdown for England. Paul Ellis/Getty
According to Johnson, in England “the number of COVID patients in hospitals has increased by nearly a third in the last week to almost 27,000.”
“That number is 40 percent higher than the first peak, in April,” Johnson said. “The number of deaths is up by 20 percent over the last week and will sadly rise further.”
Newsweek reached out to Johnson’s office for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.
Under the lockdown, residents must stay home unless for essential activities, such as grocery shopping or going to the doctor. Schools in England will be closed, just one day after students and teachers returned to the classroom following the holiday break.
Nonessential businesses such as bars, hair salons, personal care services and indoor sporting venues are also required to shut down, while restaurants can offer only takeout.
According to data from Johns Hopkins University, the U.K. has more than 2.9 million confirmed cases of the virus, with over 2.3 million in England.
Johnson’s announcement comes shortly after opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer called for the prime minister to impose another shutdown to mitigate the outbreak.
“The virus is clearly out of control,” Starmer said on Sunday. “There’s no good [in] the prime minister hinting that further restrictions are coming into place in a week, or two or three.”
He added, “That delay has been the source of so many problems. So I say bring in those restrictions now, national restrictions, within the next 24 hours. That has to be the first step to controlling the virus.”
Scotland’s lockdown was imposed just hours before Johnson’s announcement.
“I can confirm now in summary that we have decided to introduce from midnight tonight for the duration of January a legal requirement to stay at home except for essential purposes,” First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament on Monday. “This is similar to the lockdown of March last year.”