The prime minister announced on Monday evening that there would be a third national lockdown in England. The regulations will be laid before parliament on Tuesday, will be subject to a vote on Wednesday and are expected to remain in place until the middle of February.
Downing Street said people would be urged to start following the new rules from Monday evening and not wait for them to become law. The new measures will apply across the whole of England and no exception will be made for those who have been vaccinated.
Since arriving from America in October, I’ve been generally impressed with the United Kingdom’s handling of coronavirus.
Granted, this is grading on a very heavy curve: any kind of coordinated federal response seems impressive after spending the early months of the pandemic in the American cesspool, and most of my awe has come from seeing infuriating basic accomplishments like making tests freely available and implementing a national test-and-trace program that at least partially works.
UK Twitter mocked Boris Johnson’s theatrical Christmas Eve trade deal address, but to my mind, it was at least reassuring to see a leader trying to speak empathetically to a public who were spending Christmas forced apart from their loved ones.
The new variant of coronavirus has changed all of this. Even to my outside perspective, the veneer of competency has fully washed off 10 Downing.
First, the government held deliriously firm to its attempt at facilitating a normal Christmas, only bending days before the holiday when pressure from medical groups about the new strain became too much to bear. The last-minute reversal did little but create chaos in the train stations across the newly isolated London, and the seemingly more infectious variant of the coronavirus has continued to tear through the country. The country began its post EU era facing travel embargoes from dozens of countries, while facing difficult questions from its new trade partners about whether to take Johnson’s worry of the new strain at face value.
Desperate attempts to craft new tiers onto the existing containment systems have proved futile in bending the curve of infection, and now the country is entering the strictest lockdown since the pandemic began. Until at least mid-February (and likely into March), all schools in the UK will be closed, all non-essential shops and services will be suspended, and residents will only be able to leave the house to provide essential services or exercise. Like the past lockdown, this was an inevitability that was denied until the last possible moment; hours before the lockdown was revealed, Johnson was telling parents that it will be safe to send their children to school.
It’s pretty crazy. I’m not sure if this is related to Brexit’s new trade reality, but the supplies at London grocery stores I frequent are getting pretty tight. Westminister is completely cleared out. I’ve been in San Francisco, Cincinnati and New York during the pandemic, and I’ve never seen anything like this.