Vaccine joy turns to ashes as Boris Johnson announces UK's third Covid-19 lockdown

Prime Minister says if action were not taken now, NHS may be overwhelmed within 21 days

A handout picture released by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) on January 3, 2021 shows Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson appearing on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show weekly political programme at their studio in London. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on January 3, 2021 he was "reconciled" to the prospect of tougher restrictions to combat spiralling coronavirus cases, as a row flared over whether schools should reopen.  - RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT " AFP PHOTO / JEFF OVERS-BBC " - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS TO REPORT ON THE BBC PROGRAMME OR EVENT SPECIFIED IN THE CAPTION - NO ARCHIVE - NO USE AFTER - JANUARY 24, 2021
 / AFP / BBC / JEFF OVERS / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT " AFP PHOTO / JEFF OVERS-BBC " - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS TO REPORT ON THE BBC PROGRAMME OR EVENT SPECIFIED IN THE CAPTION - NO ARCHIVE - NO USE AFTER - JANUARY 24, 2021

Boris Johnson has ordered the UK's third full national lockdown and given details of plans to halt the spread of Covid-19.

Despite the start of a mass campaign with the world's first distribution of the AstraZenica-University of Oxford vaccine, London was forced to concede the new variant of Covid-19 was beyond control under the current restrictions.

Mr Johnson came under pressure to act immediately, as Germany extended its lockdown to January 31.

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt led calls on the government for a nationwide shutdown of schools, border closures and tight limits on household mixing.

Mr Hunt warned that the National Health Service would otherwise be able to treat all patients.

"The prime minister is clear that further steps must now be taken to arrest this rise and to protect the NHS and save lives," a Downing Street spokesman said.

Hospital admissions in the UK have shot up exponentially in recent weeks as this chart shows:

 

The number of patients in ventilator beds in the UK is also rising:

 

Earlier, Scotland’s devolved government announced orders to stay at home for the rest of January in the battle against a fast-spreading new strain.

Officials have hailed AstraZenica-Oxford's vaccine as a possible game-changer in fighting the disease worldwide.

It is cheaply priced and stored at fridge temperatures, and the UK hopes to administer as many as two million doses a week.

"The vaccine means everything to me," said Brian Pinker, 82, a retired maintenance manager.

"To my mind, it's the only way of getting back to a bit of normal life."

Mr Pinker was the first to receive the vaccine at Oxford's Churchill Hospital, a short walk from the laboratory where it was developed.

Across the Channel, the European Medicines Agency said it could approve an inoculation from US company Moderna as soon as Monday.

The agency is under pressure from EU member nations frustrated by slow progress in the bloc while other advanced countries race ahead.

Meanwhile, head teachers in the UK have cautioned that GCSE and A-level exams are in peril as schools cannot reopen.

This has repercussions in the UAE because British curriculum schools follow the UK line.

School principals in Britain on Monday warned final exams could be cancelled because of the situation.

It means thousands of pupils in the UAE could face school-assessed grades for a second year.

Principals urged UK authorities to make a quick decision to prevent a repeat of last year’s uncertainty.

The UAE on Monday continued to increase its vaccination programme.

Hundreds have been vaccinated so far, including some of the country's leaders, ministers and top officials, such as Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah, chairman of the UAE Fatwa Council, to encourage others to follow suit.

Abu Dhabi has also set out new exemptions for vaccinated people.

Those who have been inoculated require fewer tests to enter Abu Dhabi from another emirate and do not need to quarantine on arrival from abroad.

The UAE recorded a fall in Covid-19 cases for a second day on Monday as 1,501 infections were confirmed.

EDITOR'S PICKS