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England, Scotland Declare Fresh Lockdowns as COVID-19 Cases Escalate

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Courtesy of Sky News)

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has declared a third national lockdown for England as COVID-19 cases continue spiralling out of control. Johnson’s move comes hours after Scotland also issued stay-at-home orders for most of the nation.

England will now go into Tier 5, the highest alert level against coronavirus set by the Joint Biosecurity Center, meaning that health services are in imminent danger of being overwhelmed within 21 days.

Northern Ireland is already under a six-week lockdown while restrictions are in place in Wales as well.

The public are advised to stay in and venture out only for reasons like engaging in work that can’t be done from home, exercise, medical assistance, essential shopping and caring responsibilities. Schools will remain closed until at least mid-February.

Cinemas, theaters and other entertainment venues across the U.K. have stayed closed for weeks and will continue to remain shuttered. Film and television productions have continued throughout the various lockdowns over the past year and are expected to continue, provided crews stay within bubbles and adhere to COVID-safe regulations.

On Monday, the U.K. recorded 58,784 new coronavirus cases, the highest daily total since the start of the pandemic. It is the seventh day in a row that the number has exceeded 50,000. More than 2.7 million people have now tested positive for the virus and the number of deaths is in excess of 75,000.

The U.K. has approved two vaccines over the past month — Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca — and these are being deployed. By the middle of February, the U.K.’s National Health Service expects to vaccinate everyone in the four most critical categories: residents in care homes for older adults and their carers; all those 80 years of age and over, and frontline health and social care workers; all those 75 years of age and over; and all those 70 years of age and over, along with clinically extremely vulnerable individuals.

“The weeks ahead will be the hardest yet, but I really do believe that we’re entering the last phase of the struggle, because with every jab that goes into our arms, we are tilting the odds against COVID and in favor of the British people,” U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a televised address to the nation on Monday evening.

“If our understanding of the virus doesn’t change dramatically once again; if the rollout of the vaccine program continues to be successful; if deaths start to fall as the vaccine takes effect; and, critically, if everyone plays their part by following the rules, then I hope we can steadily move out of lockdown, reopening schools after the February half term and starting, cautiously, to move regions down the tiers,” Johnson added.

Variety's Naman Ramachandran contributed to this post.

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