British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has become more cautious about ending the national coronavirus lockdown, saying that tough measures may continue into the spring and even beyond, as a top scientific adviser compared some hospitals in the country to “a war zone.”
Johnson said on Thursday that it is too early to say when the tough restrictions will end.
“We’re seeing the contagiousness of the new variant that we saw arrive just before Christmas. There’s no doubt it does spread very fast indeed,” he said.
Johnson made the remarks as some lawmakers said the prime minister must start easing the restrictions if the mid-February vaccination target was met.
Some 24 million people — representing 43% of the population — are currently living under lockdown.
Under the restrictions, non-essential shops, hairdressers and gyms remain closed. The order also includes a warning to stay at home, placing a limit on household mixing to two people outdoors.
Johnson, who previously appeared keen to talk up early exits from the national lockdown, is now committed to review the current countrywide lockdown by mid-February.
His government delivered 363,508 vaccines on Wednesday, in a record that took the number of people to have received a first dose to 4.97 million.
The country, however, reported a fresh record in daily deaths for the second day running, hitting 1,820, figures that Johnson has called “appalling.”
The daily death toll dropped on Thursday to 1290, but fears still remain that the continued spread of the new variant of the virus keeps spreading across the nation.
The government’s top scientific adviser Joe Harrison, who is also chief executive of Milton Keynes University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, described some hospitals as looking like a war zone.
He said the university hospital had seen more than twice the number of patients in the second wave than the first, and currently had 186 patients with the coronavirus infections.
“We believe that over the next week or so, we’re going to continue to see real pressures in our critical care unit,” he said.
Scientists call for robust restrictions, saying research suggests vaccination alone may not be enough to shrink the epidemic.
The pandemic has so far infected a total number of 3,553,773 people and killed over 94,765 others across the UK, according to Johns Hopkins University.