New COVID-19 Variant

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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson reimposed a lockdown in England on Monday as a more transmissible variant of Covid-19 fuels a surge in infections and hospitalizations in the country.

"It is clear that we need to do more to bring this new variant under control," Johnson said. "That means the government is once again instructing you to stay at home."

During his televised address to the nation, Johnson reimposed measures seen during the first lockdown last spring, including closures of secondary and primary schools to all except the children of key workers and vulnerable children. He added that this means it will not be "possible or fair for all exams to go ahead this summer as normal," and alternative arrangements are being put in place.

People will be allowed to leave their homes for limited reasons like shopping for essentials, exercise, and medical assistance. Johnson also said people could still leave home "to escape domestic abuse" -- an issue that arose earlier during the pandemic, as isolation and lockdown conditions exacerbated barriers to escape for victims of domestic violence.

Gov Andrew Cuomo said that 'mutant strain' was found in New York on Monday

He said a man in his 60s with no travel history has tested positive for strain, suggesting community spread is already taking place

The man is from Saratoga County, New York, and works at a jewelry store 

Three other people who reportedly work at the store have also tested positive for COVID-19, but it's unclear if they have the UK strain too

Local officials are urging people who visited N Fox Jewelers in Saratoga Springs between December 18 to December 24 to get tested for the virus

The new variant has also been confirmed in Colorado, California and Florida 

In total, the United States has confirmed 10 cases of the new variant 

It is the same strain that prompted British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to today plunge England into a new national lockdown until at least mid-February

South Africa has also discovered a highly contagious COVID-19 variant, which was also detected in the UK prior to Christmas. So far, no cases of the South African variant have been detected in the US 

All schools and colleges will close to most pupils and switch to remote learning from Tuesday.

Boris Johnson warned the coming weeks would be the "hardest yet" amid surging cases and patient numbers.

He said those in the top four priority groups would be offered a first vaccine dose by the middle of next month.

All care home residents and their carers, everyone aged 70 and over, all frontline health and social care workers, and the clinically extremely vulnerable will be offered one dose of a vaccine by mid-February.

Speaking to the public in a televised address from Downing Street on Monday night, Prime Minister Johnson put the whole of England effectively under house arrest, banning leaving home for all but essential reasons, blaming the new variant of the Chinese coronavirus for the lockdown.

“With most of the country under extreme measures, it’s clear we need to do more together to bring this new variant under control while our vaccines are rolled out. In England, we must therefore go under a national lockdown tough enough to contain this variant,” Prime Minister Johnson said.

Mr Johnson outlined that people living in England would be instructed to stay at home, allowed to leave only for “limited reasons permitted in law”, such as shopping for essentials, work if it cannot be done from home, for medical purposes, exercise, or to escape domestic abuse — similar to instructions First Minister Nicola Sturgeon gave to Scots earlier today.

Mr Johnson said that people should act on the measures effective immediately, but that the law will not become official until Parliament votes on the measures on Wednesday.

Schools and universities would be closed, while nurseries would remain open. The vulnerable have also been asked to shield.

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