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European countries extend lockdowns as Covid cases surge


British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a strict new national lockdown in England on Monday that will last for at least six weeks.

A nearly empty street in Rome. Italy has extended most of the coronavirus restrictions that were imposed during the Christmas holiday season until January 15. Picture: Nadia Shira Cohen / The New York Times

GOVERNMENTS around Europe are preparing to extend lockdowns until the end of January and tighten restrictions to battle a highly contagious new variant of the coronavirus.

CNN reported that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday announced a strict new shutdown in England which will last for at least six weeks.

On Tuesday, Johnson took to Twitter to encourage citizens not to despair, expressing enthusiasm over an ongoing vaccination programme.

“I want to say to everyone right across the United Kingdom that I know how tough this is, I know how frustrated you are, I know that you have had more than enough of government guidance about defeating this virus,” he wrote.

“But now more than ever, we must pull together. With every jab that goes into our arms, we are tilting the odds against Covid and in favour of the British people … But for now, I am afraid, you must once again stay at home, protect the NHS (National Health Service) and save lives.”

The UK’s Independent newspaper said non-essential shops would be closed, household mixing banned and people only allowed to leave their homes for a limited number of reasons, such as work, childcare and medical reasons. Schools will also be closed, and exercise limited to once a day.

People are also encouraged to work from home, except for those whose jobs make it impossible for them to do so.

The Financial Times reported that Germany was preparing to extend its nationwide lockdown until the end of January.

“Premature easing would set us back very far again,” it quoted Markus Söder, the premier of Bavaria and leader of the Christian Social Union, as saying.

“The numbers are simply still far too high, as annoying as it is, we have to stay consistent and not give up too soon again,” Söder added.

CNN said places such as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were already in lockdown. In Ireland and Spain, teachers’ unions and some local leaders were calling on authorities to delay a return to school.

On Tuesday, Italy’s government announced on its website that most coronavirus restrictions imposed during Christmas would recommence from January 7 to 15.

– African News Agency (ANA)

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