The UK faces a third lockdown
After a brief relaxation of the rules over the Christmas period and many areas across the UK moving into Tier 4, the UK faces yet another national lockdown as the struggle with COVID-19 continues into 2021.
Unlike the last lockdown in November 2020, schools, colleges and universities will be closed, with exams said to be cancelled this year. The nation has been told to stay at home after surges in Coronavirus infections and the NHS being overwhelmed with more and more hospital beds being filled over the winter period.
With rules constantly changing since March 2020, this lockdown brings new challenges for all living in the UK.
What are the current rules?
- All children will learn remotely until February half term
- You can only leave home for certain reasons such as exercise, essential travel, work if you cannot work from home, escaping domestic violence.
- Closure of non-essential businesses
- International travel is prohibited unless you have a legally permitted reason to do so
The Pfizer and the Oxford- AstraZeneca vaccines provide hope that the end is perhaps in sight. Britain was the first to approve the Pfizer vaccine which was rolled out on 8th December 2020. It must be stored in an ultra-cold freezer between -80 and -60 degrees celsius, which means that it has to be handled very delicately. In addition, it must be used within a few days of arriving at a vaccine hub, which gives the added pressure of making sure patients are injected as quickly as possible. Patients must have two doses of this vaccine in order to fully benefit from its 95% effectiveness.
Matt Hancock seemed very pleased when the AstraZeneca vaccine was approved as it is produced in Britain unlike the Pfizer vaccine which is produced in Belgium. This will therefore give the UK more access to the vaccine and in theory, ensure that there is enough to go around.
The AstraZeneca vaccine was approved on 30th December 2020 and is to be rolled out this week. The jab is said to be around 62% effective, which is more than the average flu vaccination (which is around 50% effective). It is uncertain how long the vaccines will give people immunity, it may be a case of receiving an annual injection, similar to the flu jab.
Who will receive the vaccine?
People over the age of 80 and the most vulnerable groups will be prioritised for receiving the vaccine first, along with care home staff and NHS colleagues.
Vulnerable groups are defined as:
- Having certain medical conditions listed- here.
- Those placed on the shielding list by their GP due to being high risk or having serious illness.
Further financial support
Due to the continuation of job losses and redundancies as a result of further restrictions and lockdowns, the Coronavirus Retention Scheme has been extended until April 2021. Employees will continue to receive 80% of their current salary for hours not worked in employment.
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