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World begins lockdowns to ward off UK’s more virulent Covid strain

Covid lockdown

The world is going under a lockdown in response to the new coronavirus strain that emerged in London, parts of east and south-east England in the UK last week.

European countries and Canada have already suspended Christmas and holiday travel with the UK while Saudi Arabia has closed its borders to all countries. Surprisingly the US had not suspended flights to-and-fro from the UK till early Monday morning, saying the swift clampdown by British authorities was enough to not cause alarm. London and significant parts of England are under a tier-4 lockdown—one of the severest.

Defending the lockdown, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the media: "Unfortunately the new strain was out of control. We have got to get it under control." Belgium has banned flights as well as rail traffic to the UK. France too stopped road and ferry traffic prompting concerns over movement of freight and a break in the supply chains to Europe. The bans are happening during peak travel and holiday season where UK is one of the busiest destinations.

The new strain of coronavirus has also been found in the Netherlands, Denmark and as far as Australia and South Africa. All these cases are believed to have originated from the UK. The new strain has been found in nearly 60 per cent of all cases in London. Though it is spreading fast, causing people to rush to hospitals in large numbers, it has so far not been proven dangerous in its effects. The UK is investigating the new strain and the World Health Organization (WHO) has already been involved.

A WHO Europe spokesperson told news agency AFP: "Across Europe, where transmission is intense and widespread, countries need to redouble their control and prevention approaches." Prime Minister Boris Johnson has taken urgent measures and imposed a total lockdown, the severest one till now, on the capital city and nearby regions. Johnson told a press conference: “… but from what we see so far it is growing very quickly, it is growing faster than (a previous variant) ever grew, but it is important to keep an eye on this.”

As the world races to take stock of the new situation arising out of London, the Indian Health Ministry too held an emergency meeting to review its response. For the past few days, India is witnessing declining numbers in the spread of coronavirus. Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Sunday that India is likely to begin vaccination in January 2021 once the efficacy and safety of various vaccines is verified.

Despite the surge in coronavirus numbers, and fear, due to the new threat, European Union believes that existing vaccines are effective against the new strain. German Health Minister Jens Spahn told public broadcaster ZDF that the existing vaccines remain "just as effective." For people in the UK, and indeed all of Europe, this is one of the worst Christmas seasons in decades as it prevents them from meeting family and friends owing to fear of coronavirus and ban on travel.