England goes into new lockdown as variant rages

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER, BORIS JOHNSON: "The government is once again instructing you to stay at home."

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday ordered England into a new national lockdown to contain a surge in COVID-19 cases that threatens to overwhelm parts of the health system before a vaccine program reaches a critical mass.

Johnson said a new, more contagious variant of the coronavirus first identified in the United Kingdom and now present in many other countries was spreading at great speed and immediate action was needed to slow it down.

"It's clear that we need to do more together to bring this new variant under control while our vaccines are rolled out. In England we must therefore go into a national lockdown which is tough enough to contain this variant."

Johnson added this about the new lockdown measures:

"You may only leave home for limited reasons permitted in law, such as to shop for essentials, to work if you absolutely cannot work from home, to exercise, to seek medical assistance such as getting a COVID test or to escape domestic abuse."

Johnson said that if the vaccine rollout went as planned and the number of deaths responded to the lockdown measures as expected, it should be possible to start moving out of lockdown by the middle of February.

However, he urged caution about the timetable and appealed to everyone to comply with the rules.

Britain's economy suffered a historic crash between April and June of last year as swathes of business were shuttered by the first lockdown -- and the new lockdown is also expected to put a strain on the economy.