EDINBURGH – On January 2, Boris Johnson was feeling pretty good about himself. After securing a massive majority in the festive elections last year, the Prime Minister posted a thumbs-up photo of his smiling face with the caption: “This is going to be a fantastic year for Britain.” As 2020 draws to a close – with a mutant virus sweeping through his country, Christmas canceled for millions, Brexit talks deadlocked and countries around the world banning all types of travel from Britain – it’s fair to say Johnson’s prediction was pretty broad. the brand.
Britain is in an unprecedented state of crisis. Johnson’s horrific weekend televised speech, when he revealed that a new strain of coronavirus, which is apparently spreading faster, was tearing London apart, had a domino effect across the world. More than a dozen countries have closed their doors to inbound British travel – more seriously, France has closed its British border for two days, meaning no transport can make its way from Europe, raising fears of immediate food shortages a few days before Christmas.
From Monday morning, France, Germany, Italy, Denmark, Netherlands, Ireland, Austria, Portugal, Sweden, Belgium, Bulgaria, Turkey, Switzerland, Canada, Hong Kong, Israel, Iran, Croatia, Argentina, El Salvador, Chile, Morocco, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have all announced bans. No action has yet been taken in the United States – although New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has demanded new federal restrictions to prevent UK flights from heading to New York airports.
But it could be too late to stop the mutant strain of COVID racing around the planet.
Many questions about the UK variant of the virus remain unanswered. Since the pandemic took hold in March, the world has largely learned what to expect from the coronavirus – but now the rulebook is being frantically rewritten in Britain, where people are facing a virus mutated which seems to be much better at infecting people. There is no evidence to suggest that the mutation makes a COVID infection more deadly, but a simple increase in transmission would be enough to put a strain on the country’s already cringing hospitals.
There’s also no evidence to suggest that approved vaccines won’t work against the mutation, but that doesn’t mean scientists aren’t concerned about the prospect. Ravi Gupta, professor of clinical microbiology at the University of Cambridge, told BBC News: “If we let her add more mutations then you start to worry … This virus is potentially on a way out of the vaccine. , he took the first couple of steps towards this. Scientists in the US military are performing their own tests to make sure the vaccine is still effective against the British strain.
It’s not just a British problem – despite travel restrictions, experts have suggested that the British strain appears to be spreading so quickly that it could become the dominant strain around the world. Professor Calum Semple, who sits on the UK government’s advisory group, said the strain “causes more disease faster” and “will likely outperform other strains” to become the most common around the world.
The effect of the mutation is already clearly being felt in Great Britain. New cases of the coronavirus in the UK increased by 35,928 on Sunday, nearly double the number recorded seven days earlier. Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the nation on Sunday that the tension was “out of control.”
Johnson is expected to chair an emergency response meeting on Monday to discuss the unprecedented peacetime disaster. It couldn’t have come at a worse time – many UK companies were already engaged in rampant stockpiling before December 31, when Brexit’s transition withdrawal period with the European Union ends and new customs rules come into effect. force. It is still unclear what those rules will be, as UK and EU negotiators again failed to reach a deal over the weekend. Johnson said in the Brexit referendum that Britain would not leave without a deal, but that promise appears to be on the verge of collapse.
The dire timing has also caused grief to millions of people. Johnson had insisted as recently as last Wednesday that the five-day window for the UK Christmas mix should continue. That day, facing calls from the opposition to drop the plans, he ridiculed the idea and said he wouldn’t dream of canceling Christmas. Three days later he told people in London that they would not be allowed to visit friends and family. The rest of the country has seen its visitation window reduced to Christmas Day alone – although the the government urged people not to use it.
Labor Party leader Sir Keir Starmer accused Johnson of “gross negligence” over his procrastination, saying the need to restrict the easing of the rules at Christmas had been “blatantly obvious” for weeks. Starmer repeated a criticism of Johnson throughout his career – that he postponed having to make an ‘unpopular’ decision until it was far too late. Videos of crowded London train stations on Saturday night, hours before new travel restrictions go into effect, suggest he is right.
Clearly this has not been a ‘fantastic year for Britain’ – and the remaining ten days of 2020 are set to be the worst of the lot.
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