The United Kingdom is beginning its third COVID-19 lockdown. Danica Kirka writes for the AP:
England is entering a third national lockdown that will last at least six weeks, as authorities struggle to stem a surge in COVID-19 infections that threatens to overwhelm hospitals around the U.K.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a tough new stay-at-home order for England that takes effect at midnight Tuesday and won’t be reviewed until at least mid-February. Few in England expect any relief until after the traditional late February school break.
Scotland’s leader, Nicola Sturgeon, also imposed a lockdown there that began Tuesday. Northern Ireland and Wales had already imposed tough measures, though rules vary.
Johnson and Sturgeon said the restrictions were needed to protect the hard-pressed National Health Service as a new, more contagious variant of coronavirus sweeps across Britain. On Monday, hospitals in England were treating 26,626 COVID-19 patients, 40% more than during the first peak in mid-April.
“The weeks ahead will be the hardest yet, but I really do believe that we are entering the last phase of the struggle,” Johnson said in an address to the nation Monday night. “Because with every jab that goes into our arms, we are tilting the odds against COVID and in favor of the British people.”
Many U.K. hospitals have already been forced to cancel elective surgeries and the strain of responding to the pandemic may soon delay cancer surgery and limit intensive care services for patients without COVID-19. Intensive care units are full and spilling over, said Siva Anandaciva, chief analyst of the King’s Fund, a health and social care think tank.
“It’s not hyperbole to say that the (National Health Service) is going through probably the toughest time in living memory,″ he told The Associated Press. Anandaciva said some emergency rooms have waits of 12 hours.