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Johnson getting his temperature taken. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/WPA Pool/Getty Images

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday that England will enter a six-week lockdown, as the spread of a highly contagious new coronavirus variant threatens to overwhelm the National Health Service.

Why it matters: It's England's third national lockdown, following the initial March restrictions during the start of the pandemic and a four-week "circuit-breaker" in November.

  • Large portions of England had already been under various degrees of lockdown, and Scotland imposed a month-long national lockdown earlier on Monday. Wales and Northern Ireland have been under tight restrictions since December, and it's unclear whether a stricter lockdown will follow.
  • A statement from the U.K.'s chief medical officers on Monday urged Johnson to move the U.K. COVID-19 alert level from "Level 4" to "Level 5," warning of a "material risk" of hospital systems being overwhelmed in the next 21 days.

Details: Under the new restrictions, people in England will be mandated to stay home until mid-February, with exceptions for leaving home for exercise, health care, shopping for necessities and avoiding domestic violence.

  • Unlike the second national lockdown, schools and colleges will be closed and moved entirely to remote learning.

What they're saying: "We now have a new variant of the virus, and it’s been both frustrating and alarming to see the speed with which the new variant is spreading," Johnson said in a national address.

  • "In England, we must therefore go into a national lockdown that is tough enough to contain this variant. That means the government is once again instructing you to stay at home."

Between the lines: The new variant of the coronavirus has been found to have a greater degree of transmissibility, but there is "no evidence to suggest that the variant has any impact on the severity of disease or vaccine efficacy," per the Centers for Disease Control.

The big picture: The fresh lockdown comes as more than 1 million people in the U.K. have now received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

  • The U.K. was the first country to roll out both the Pfizer vaccine and the AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine for emergency use.
  • 82-year-old Brian Pinker on Monday became the first person in the world to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine outside of clinical trials.

Go deeper

Jan 30, 2021 - World

Science helps New Zealand avoid another coronavirus lockdown

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (L) visits a lab at Auckland University in December. Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images

New Zealand has avoided locking down for a second time over COVID-19 community cases because of a swift, science-led response.

Why it matters: The Health Ministry said in an email to Axios Friday there's "no evidence of community transmission" despite three people testing positive after leaving managed hotel isolation. That means Kiwis can continue to visit bars, restaurants and events as much of the world remains on lockdown.

Updated 1 min ago - World

Death toll mounts as fighting between Israel and Hamas intensifies

Palestinian Muslims exchange wishes for Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, near a razed building in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahia, on May 13. Photo: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

At least 109 Palestinians and seven people in Israel have been killed since recent fighting between Israel's military and Hamas began Monday.

The big picture: Israel began massing troops on its border with Gaza on Thursday, launching attacks from the air and ground as Hamas continued to fire rockets into Israel.