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Homeland Security

Britain Warns of New Lockdowns Amid Coronavirus Surge, Variant

By VOA News January 03, 2021

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned Sunday of new lockdowns to be issued across the country as cases of the coronavirus surge, particularly with a new variant spreading.

Britain has been seeing upwards of 50,000 new cases daily as health experts note that the variant is up to 70 percent more contagious.

"We are entirely reconciled to do what it takes to get the virus under control that may involve tougher measures in the weeks ahead," Johnson told the BBC.

Also, on Sunday, India gave final approval for the emergency use of two coronavirus vaccines. One of the vaccines was developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University. Bharat Biotech, an Indian company, developed the other vaccine.

Only the United States surpasses India in the number of infections. The U.S. has about one-fourth of the infections globally, leading the world with more than 20.4 million cases and 350,000 deaths. India is second, with about half as many confirmed cases and deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking the global outbreak.

The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday said the U.S. had administered more than 4.2 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccines nationwide and distributed more than 13 million. COVID-19 is the illness caused by the coronavirus.

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.

Officials in Brazil, home to the third-highest number of cases globally at 7.7 million, recently told the Associated Press the country was at least three weeks away from launching any formal immunization campaign.

European Union leaders on Saturday offered to help any drug companies expand vaccine production and improve "distribution bottlenecks."

"The bottleneck at the moment is…the worldwide shortage of production capacity," said EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides, adding the bloc would help drug companies develop candidate vaccines.

Ban on US travelers, tighter lockdowns

The Philippines said it would prohibit the entry of foreign travelers from the U.S. until at least January 15 after the new coronavirus variant was detected.

In Bangkok, Thai officials shuttered the city's nightlife with a ban on bar, nightclub and restaurant alcohol sales, among a raft of restrictions aimed at curbing the kingdom's rising toll. Elsewhere, Tokyo's governor on Saturday asked Japan's government to declare a new state of emergency as the country battles a third wave of infections, with record numbers of new cases.

France, which recently lengthened an overnight curfew by two hours in parts of the country, has the highest case count in western Europe with more than 2.7 million, according to Johns Hopkins.

Spanish police broke up a gathering Saturday near Barcelona, where 300 people had been partying for more than 40 hours.

Ireland on Saturday reported 3,394 cases of the outbreak nearly doubling its record for a single day. Irish officials Friday said they had underreported coronavirus cases in recent days by more than 9,000, as its reporting system came under strain.

Italy, which has the highest coronavirus death toll in Europe at nearly 75,000, Saturday reported 364 more people had died from the virus, a drop compared with Friday's total of 462. The Guardian reported that new cases had also decreased, from 22,211 to 11,831.

Norway, with one of the lowest infection rates in Europe, Saturday began requiring COVID-19 tests upon arrival into the country, after finding five cases of the British variant. Denmark discovered 86 cases of that new, more contagious strain.

Greece has extended until January 10 its strict two-month lockdown measures, ending an easing of the restrictions for the holidays.

In Zimbabwe, where recorded cases have almost doubled since the beginning of November, government officials ordered a new containment Saturday evening. The country has recorded nearly 14,500 cases to date, including 377 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins.

Zimbabwe Reintroduces Dusk-to-Dawn Curfew to Contain Rising COVID-19 Cases

Besides the curfew, other measures include limiting the number of mourners at funerals to 30 people, while all other gatherings at weddings, churches, bars, bottle stores, gyms and restaurants are banned

In South Africa, government-backed security forces stepped up a "zero-tolerance approach" to enforcing a mask mandate, and President Cyril Ramaphosa banned alcohol sales, calling it a root cause of accidents and violence that strain hospital resources.

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.

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