The UK’s COVID-19 cases have surged by 50% in the first week of January 2021 compared to the last week of December 2020, and deaths related to COVID-19 have risen by 21%.
Most analysts attribute the steep rise to the emergence of a new variant of the virus that is proven to be 50-70% more contagious, though it is not associated with more severe symptoms. Hospitals in parts of the country are at capacity and the country has entered its third lockdown with schools and non-essential shops closed, as well as with travel curbed.
The UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, is preparing for the country to have a double-dip recession. Oxford Economics, a consultancy firm, is expecting the UK’s gross domestic product to fall by 4% in the first three months of 2021 as a result of the new restrictions. The firm is not expecting the economic fallout to be quite as bad as the lockdown in the spring of 2020 though, when the economy fell by 20%.
The UK has initiated a massive vaccination plan and is first rolling out vaccines to healthcare workers and populations particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.