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UK’s Johnson sets out new measures to replace COVID lockdown

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out new measures on Monday to replace a national lockdown to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic in England on Dec. 2, strengthening a tiered regional approach to reflect differences in infection rates.

“We’re not going to replace national measures with a free for all … We’re going to go back instead to a regional, tiered approach, applying the toughest measures where COVID is most prevalent,” Johnson told parliament.

“The scientific advice is … that our tiers need to be made tougher. I can’t say that Christmas will be normal this year,but in a period of adversity, time spent with loved ones is even more precious for people of all faiths and none. We all want some kind of Christmas, we need it,we certainly feel we deserve it. But what we don’t want is to throw caution to the winds and allow the virus to flare up again, forcing us all back into lockdown in January,” said the British PM.

“From next month, weekly tests will also be available to staff in prisons, food manufacturing, and those delivering and administering Covid-19 vaccines. We are also using testing as the House knows to help schools and universities stay open, and testing will enable students to know they can go home safely for Christmas and indeed back from home to university. But there is another way of using these rapid tests, and that is to follow the example of Liverpool, where in the last two and a half weeks over 200,000 people have taken part in community testing, contributing to a very substantial fall in infections.”

He added that, with NHS Test and Trace and Armed Forces, the government will now launch a major community testing programme, offering all local authorities in tier 3 areas in England a six week surge of testing. The system is untried and there are of course many unknowns, but if it works, we should be able to offer those who test negative the prospect of fewer restrictions, for example, meeting up in certain places with others who have also tested negative.

He, however, maintained that the most hopeful advance of all is how vaccines are now edging ever closer to liberating people from the virus, demonstrating emphatically that this is not a pandemic without end.

“The vaccine developed with astonishing speed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca is now one of three capable of delivering a period of immunity. We don’t yet know when any will be ready and licensed, but we have ordered 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine, and over 350 million in total, more than enough for everyone in the UK, the Crown Dependencies and the Overseas Territories,” said the British PM.

He also announced that the NHS is preparing a nationwide immunisation programme, ready next month, “the like of which we have never witnessed”.

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