Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday warned that the current tiered system of lockdown to arrest the spread of Covid-19 may have to be toughened further as the UK grapples with the new strain of the coronavirus.
As teachers’ unions have been calling for a countrywide closure of all schools for a few weeks due to the rapid spread of the new variation, Johnson insisted that parents should send their children to school from Monday in the areas where they remain open as the threat to young kids from the deadly virus is “very small”.
However, he admitted that even stricter restrictions for the wider public may be on their way in the coming weeks as the coronavirus cases in the country jumped by 57,725 this weekend, taking the death toll close to 75,000.
"Alas, restrictions may be about to get tougher," Johnson told the BBC, when asked about the lockdown.
"It may be that we need to do things in the next few weeks that may be tougher. I'm fully reconciled to that. I think the whole country is fully reconciled to that. There are a range of tougher measures that we might have to take.
“Schools are safe. It's very important to stress that. The threat to young people, kids, is very small. The risk to staff is very small. The benefits of education are so huge," the Prime Minister said.
Defending his handling of the pandemic, Johnson, a Covid-19 survivor, said that his government had taken "every reasonable step that we reasonably could" to prepare for winter months.
It comes as the NHS prepares to begin rolling out the Oxford University vaccine produced by AstraZeneca from Monday, as hospitals began receiving deliveries of the jabs this weekend after it became the second vaccine to be given regulatory approval after the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine against Covid-19.
Meanwhile, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it had administered 4,225,756 first doses of Covid-19 vaccines in the country as of Saturday morning and distributed 13,071,925 doses.
The tally of vaccine doses distributed and the number of people who received the first dose are for both Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech, vaccines as of 9:00 a.m. ET on Saturday, the agency said.
According to the tally posted on Dec. 30, the agency had administered 2,794,588 first doses of the vaccines and distributed 12,409,050 doses.