UK announces yet another lockdown, citing new strain of COVID-19

'we don’t want to do any of this, but it’s necessary' Health Secretary Matthew Hancock claimed
Mon Dec 21, 2020 - 2:56 pm EST
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WESTMINSTER, U.K, December 21, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Christmas has been cancelled for millions of people in the U.K, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new lockdown for parts of the country, which has been threatened to last until millions are vaccinated. 

The rules were announced on Saturday afternoon and took effect from Sunday morning. The new Tier 4, the highest level of restrictions in the U.K currently, is very similar to the conditions endured during the most recent national lockdown. In making the announcement, Johnson said that the purpose of the rules is to prevent the newly identified strain of COVID-19, which he claimed “may be up to 70% more transmissible than the old variant.”

He did admit, however, that there was no data to “suggest” that the new strain of the virus is “more lethal or causes more severe illness.”

At the supposed conclusion of the last national lockdown London had been placed into “Tier 3”, previously the highest restriction level in the country. But the capital city has now been placed in “Tier 4,” a new restriction category, along with much of the South East and will affect nearly 17 million people. 

The new rules are summarised by the title “Stay at Home,” and order people not to leave their homes unless they qualify due to a “reasonable excuse.” All non-essential retail, along with indoor gyms, hospitality venues and leisure centres, are to close. 

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Previously, the 5 days around Christmas were to have a relaxation of restrictions, during which people could form a household “bubble” with others. That has now been reduced to one day only, and people living in the Tier 4 area are not permitted to leave it, except for certain limited reasons. 

“When the virus changes its method of attack, we must change our method of defence,” Johnson declared, justifying the measures which he admitted would be “disappointing,” and which have been dubbed as cancelling Christmas.

However in a press conference on Wednesday, Johnson had ruled out the cancellation of Christmas saying: “We don’t want to ban Christmas, or cancel it, and I think frankly that would be inhuman, and against the instincts of many people in this country.”

Defending the Prime Minister, the Health Secretary Matthew Hancock, claimed that “Well we don’t want to do any of this, but it’s necessary.”

A formal review of the measures is due to take place on December 30, but Hancock has suggested that the measure could stay in place for some months, even until “Easter,” linking the easing of restrictions to the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination. “The new variant is out of control and we need to bring it under control,” he said. “We don’t know how long these measures are going to be in place. It may be for some time until we can get the vaccine going…It is going to be very difficult to keep it [the virus] under control until we have the vaccine rolled out.” 

“We’ve got a long way to go to sort this,” Hancock continued. “Essentially, we’ve got to get that vaccine rolled out to get people safe.”

Johnson had dispersed Parliament on Thursday, two days before his announcement, and so MP’s have not had the opportunity to vote on the new restrictions. Unless the statutory instrument, made hastily on Sunday morning, is approved within 28 days, then the law would be reversed automatically. However, some MP’s are accusing Johnson of deliberately waiting to announce the restrictions, until after Parliament had been sent home.

Vocal lockdown critic, Sir Charles Walker MP, who is the vice-chair of the 1922 committee of backbench Tory MPs, said ministers “knew on Thursday, possibly even Wednesday, that they were going to pull the plug on Christmas, but they waited till Parliament had gone.”

Lockdowns around the UK

Other areas of the U.K are following suit, with restrictions coming into force in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Wales has entered another national lockdown, after having only recently exited a lockdown in November. The new lockdown had been due to start on December 28, but was brought forward to start on Sunday morning, with people ordered to stay at home, and Christmas meet ups are now limited to the day itself, instead of the original relaxation of rules planned between December 23 through 27. Travel is prohibited unless it is deemed “essential.”

The country has again adopted the draconian measure of blocking off aisles in supermarkets, which contain goods considered non-essential. 

Scotland has raised its alert level to the highest level 4, meaning that from December 26, the whole country will be living under “lockdown rules,” apart from a few western and highland isles. Similar to Wales and the Tier 4 regions in England, all non-essential shops, hospitality and any “non-essential” services have been ordered to close. Schools are also to remain shut past their normal return date after Christmas, only opening on January 18 at the earliest.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has followed the Welsh move in prohibiting all non-essential cross border travel, promising to have much more frequent and visible police border patrols.

Northern Ireland is also to enter a lockdown from December 26, which is to last six weeks.

In all of the national lockdown’s and the new Tier 4 areas, public worship has been permitted to continue, unlike the recent November lockdown. 

Reactions to the new restrictions

Commenting on Hancock’s warning of the new, more infectious strain of COVID-19, former Vice President of Pfizer Dr. Michael Yeadon wrote: “I regret to say that, once again, we are being lied to. As usual, I offer no motive because I have no idea.” Yeadon “spent over 30 years leading new [allergy and respiratory] medicines research in some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies,” and retired from Pfizerwith “the most senior research position in this field.” 

After Johnson’s announcement of the new restrictions, Yeadon took to Twitter once more to outline the flaws in the Prime Minister’s plan: “These measures: -won’t save a single life -will throttle the life out of any business on the edge -will increase illness & deaths -acceptance marks the end of democracy. These people have no right to decide our choices.”

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage commented in a brief message: “Christmas cancelled. Thank you, China.” 

Meanwhile, anti-lockdown campaigner Simon Dolan, who has been challenging the U.K’s lockdown policy in courts, noted that it “Feels like the modern day equivalent of the Berlin Wall going up doesn’t it?”

“We are living in the biggest lie ever perpetrated by a UK Govt on its citizens,” Dolan stated, “This is no conspiracy theory. This is stone cold fact.”

Even U.S. President Donald Trump weighed in on the issue, commenting on news of the restrictions and saying that “We don’t want to have lockdowns. The cure cannot be worse than the problem itself!”

Any evidence of a new strain of COVID?

Despite the much-touted danger of the new variation of COVID-19, which is being used as the justification for the new lockdowns, evidence about the new strain has yet to be presented. Carl Heneghan, Professor of Evidence Based Medicine at Oxford University’s Nuffield Department of Primary Care, cast doubt on the claim of it being 70% more transmissable. “I’ve been doing this job for 25 years and I can tell you can’t establish a quantifiable number in such a short time frame,” he said, adding that “every expert is saying it's too early to draw such an inference.”

Heneghan continued by accusing the government of “fitting the data to the evidence.” 

They see cases rising and they are looking for evidence to explain it,” he said. 

“I would want to have very clear evidence rather than ‘we think it’s more transmissible’ so we can see if it is or not.”

Taking to Twitter, Heneghan asked for evidence to defend the claim of the new strain being more transmissible, to which Yeadon responded by saying it was invented. “I suspect it’s invented,” he said. “It’s one of around 40,000 variants, typically emerging from error prone replication. It would be funny if it weren’t so serious if it turns out to be an asymptomatic variant: easy to catch & pass on but doesn’t make you ill.”

Minutes from the meeting of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG), who advised Johnson regarding the lockdown, seem to support Heneghan’s suspicions. The document shows that NERVTAG could only offer “moderate confidence” that the novel strain “demonstrates a substantial increase in transmissibility compared to other variants.” 

They also highlighted that the new strain “has demonstrated exponential growth during a period when national lockdown measures were in place,” throwing yet more doubt on the effectiveness of lockdowns.

  boris johnson, coronavirus restrictions, covid-19, lockdowns

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