Madrid Desk, Jan 20 (efe-epa).- The United Kingdom, which is struggling with a new more infectious strain of coronavirus, reported a record number of deaths from coronavirus in the last 24 hours on Wednesday.
The spread of the new mutation has caused alarm in countries on the continent, with Dutch and German officials toughening lockdown measures that are currently in place until next month at least.
The United Kingdom reported 1,820 fatalities from coronavirus on Wednesday, the highest single-day death toll since the pandemic began last year.
The British government also reported 38,905 new Covid-19 cases in the country as a whole, considerably higher than Tuesday’s reported 33,355.
Boris Johnson’s government said it would analyze the effectiveness of the first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, after doubts were raised by a study carried out in Israel.
So far, over 5 million Covid vaccines have been administered, of which 4,609,740 were a first dose of the preparation (out of a total of two) and 460,625 were second doses.
Boris Johnson has set a goal of administering 15 million first doses of the preparations by February 15.
In comments to Sky News, the government’s chief scientific advisor, Patrick Vallance, confirmed that the degree of effectiveness of the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine would be reviewed in the wake of the Israeli study.
According to the new data, the protection that the vaccine provides after the first dose is significantly lower – 33 percent – than initial estimates during the clinical trials – which suggested 89 percent effectiveness.
The Dutch government announced Wednesday that, pending parliamentary approval, it will introduce a night curfew and a mandatory quarantine for travelers from this weekend, as well as limiting, with immediate effect, one visitor per house, and banning flights to and from the United Kingdom, South America and South Africa.
Despite all non-essential activity and schools being closed since mid-December, the outgoing Dutch government says new restrictions are needed to “avoid a third wave”, amid warnings that the British variant of coronavirus is more dangerous.
At a press conference, Prime Minister Mark Rutte acknowledged that “the most important measure announced today is a curfew, a ban on being on the streets between certain hours, a severe measure that nobody wants,” adding that the government “can not, nor wants to, take such a drastic decision without parliamentary support.”
The parliamentary debate slated for Wednesday was postponed until Thursday. If approved, the curfew will come into effect on Saturday or Sunday, to be applied between 8:30 p.m. and 4:30 a.m., at least until February 9.
“It will be a crime if you are on the street during the curfew and you are not officially exempt. You can receive a fine of 95 euros. People who are on the street for work reasons must have a document from their employer, and those with a dog can go outside,” Rutte explained, pointing out some exceptions to the measure, which include home delivery services.
Germany will extend its current lockdown until at least February 14 amid fears that new mutations of the coronavirus could see infection rates, which have been steadily dropping in recent days, surge again.
After lengthy discussions on Tuesday, chancellor Angela Merkel and the leaders of the country’s federal states agreed to extend the closure of all leisure and cultural activities as well as non-essential shops.
Schools are also mostly closed, while restaurants can only operate takeaway or delivery services.