British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said England is adopting a national lockdown that he hopes will be tough enough to contain a new, highly contagious variant of Covid-19.
In an announcement Monday evening, Johnson said primary, secondary and colleges will also move to remote learning in most cases.
It comes as the U.K. grapples with a more transmissible variant of Covid-19. To date, the country has recorded over 2.6 million cases of Covid-19 and more than 75,000 related deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
On Monday, the U.K. recorded 58,784 new cases, and has now reported more than 50,000 new coronavirus cases for seven days in a row.
Johnson warned earlier on Monday that the U.K. had “tough, tough weeks to come” and there was “no question” tougher measures would be implemented.
Ahead of the announcement, more than three-quarters of England were living under “Tier 4” restrictions, the country’s toughest level of measures.
On Monday afternoon, Scotland’s leader Nicola Sturgeon announced a new stay-at-home order for the country’s citizens from midnight. Schools in Scotland will remain closed until the beginning of February.
Kier Starmer, leader of the U.K.’s main opposition Labour Party, tweeted on Sunday that Johnson “must put national restrictions in place within the next 24 hours.”
Coronavirus vaccines are the only bright spot in a pandemic that continues to rage across the U.K. and much of the West. On Monday, the U.K. began its rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine after starting to deploy the Pfizer/BioNTech shot in December.
The U.K. government has decided to implement a 12-week delay between the first and second doses of both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccines, in a bid to cover as much of the population as possible.
The U.K.‘s independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies said on Sunday that it endorsed the move, with conditions, however the British Medical Association has criticized the U.K.’s decision to delay second doses.