New COVID-19 Lockdowns in Britain; New Variant Found in New York

Britain’s prime minister announced a fresh round of lockdowns Monday, closing schools and nonessential shops, as the country begins vaccinating health care workers and the elderly.Prime Minister Boris Johnson said people must stay at home until at least mid-February, noting that British hospitals are under more strain now than they have been at any point during the pandemic.“If the rollout of the vaccine program continues to be successful. If deaths start to fall as the vaccine takes effect. And critically, if everyone plays their part by following the rules, then I hope we can steadily move out of lockdown,” Johnson said in a televised address Monday.Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits Chase Farm Hospital in north London, Jan. 4, 2021, part of the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust.The announcement comes days after British health officials confirmed a variant of the coronavirus that doctors say is far more contagious than the original.New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Monday that a case of the same variant had been confirmed in an older New York state resident who had not traveled recently.NEW: The Wadsworth Lab has confirmed New York State’s first case of the U.K. variant (B.1.1.7) of the virus that causes COVID.An individual from Saratoga County, New York, tested positive for the strain. The individual had no known travel history.— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) Brian Pinker, 82, receives the Oxford University/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine from nurse Sam Foster at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford, England, Jan. 4, 2021.British officials say half a million doses of the vaccine are ready for use.The AstraZeneca vaccine is cheaper and more easily transported than the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine because it does not need to be kept at extremely cold temperatures. The Pfizer shot has already been administered to many health care professionals in Britain and the United States.France, which is administering the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, pledged Monday to increase the speed at which it is inoculating its health care workers after facing criticism from the public.FILE – A man applies finishing touches to graffiti representing a vaccine, amidst the spread of coronavirus disease, in Kolkata, India, Jan. 2, 2021.In Russia, Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said that more than 800,000 people had received the domestically produced Sputnik V vaccine and that 1.5 million doses had been distributed throughout the country of 147 million.The Kremlin is pinning its hopes on mass vaccinations, not nationwide restrictions, to stop the spread of the virus and save its struggling economy from the hit of another lockdown.The coronavirus has killed more than 1.8 million people globally since emerging in China in December 2019, according to Johns Hopkins.Experts fear the worst is yet to come, predicting a sharp rise in cases and deaths after weeks of holiday gatherings.VOA’s Fern Robinson contributed to this report.

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