UK PM Boris Johnson
UK PM Boris Johnson
File Photo

British Twitter was found on Sunday deeply unhappy with United Kingdom (UK) Prime Minister Boris Johnson's handling of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic outbreak and the recently-concluded Brexit talks. Netizens on the social networking website were seen demanding Johnson's resignation as #Resign trended throughout the day.

Notably, Boris Johnson had, on Sunday, said that "schools are safe" in areas where they are open, and insisted that parents should send their children to school from tomorrow.

"There is no doubt in my mind that schools are safe, and that education is a priority," the UK Prime Minister told The BBC.

This comes amid mounting public pressure on the prime minister to keep all of England's schools closed when the new term starts, a demand that Johnson didn't seem to pay much heed to.

The UK is struggling with a sharp spike in new cases as a result of a new virus variant that officials said could be up to 70% more infectious.

The variant has been particularly prevalent in London and in surrounding areas, prompting Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to row back on plans to allow some primary schools - those for children 11 and under - in the capital to reopen as scheduled on January 4.

With daily coronavirus infections surging as a result of a new virus variant, the British government has been facing the pressure from teachers' unions to keep schools in England closed for at least another two weeks.

Most other primary schools in England are still scheduled to open on Monday. High school reopenings have already been delayed for millions of students, with exam-year pupils scheduled to return on January 11 and others a week later.

Several citizens also fear that Britain is heading into a third national lockdown, and owing to the fact that the prime minister had been rather vague about the veracity of the rumours, public perception has not been kind on him.

"It may be that we need to do things in the next few weeks that may be tougher. I'm fully reconciled to that. I think the whole country is fully reconciled to that," Boris Johnson told his countrymen on this day, leading to further concerns over an upcoming potential lockdown.

It might be worth noting here that Boris Johnson's approval ratings are an all-time low, as Britishers remain alarmed over the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Brexit deal.

According to a survey conducted by a US data firm, Johnson's approval ratings were in negative, reflecting the public perception.

Experts feel that the Morning Consult survey shows ratings were in the negative for UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson as more people disapprove of his work than those who approve.

A recent report by The Guardian also predicts, citing a poll, that the public are "deeply unhappy" with the government's performance and that Boris Johnson is disturbingly on the course to lose his own seat of Uxbridge and Ruislip South if a general election were to be held tomorrow.

The UK on Saturday hit a daily record for new coronavirus infections - 57,725 - and according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University has overtaken Italy once again to be the worst hit country in Europe with nearly 75,000 COVID-related deaths.

The fear is that the number of deaths will grow over the coming weeks. The UK has recorded its five highest daily new infection numbers over the past five days - all above 50,000 and double the daily number of only a few weeks ago.

With many British hospitals at or near capacity, there are growing concerns over how the already stretched National Health Service will cope with people seeking treatment for COVID-19 after getting infected over the holidays. Field hospitals that were built last spring but were then mothballed are getting outfitted again to take in patients.

On the inoculations front, Britain began vaccinating people over 80 and health care workers on December 8 with the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine. Last week, the government approved another vaccine made by Oxford University and pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca that is cheaper and easier to use.

The UK plans to ramp up vaccinations on Monday using the vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca, and has set a goal of vaccinating 2 million people a week as soon as possible.

More than a million people in the UK have already received their first jab of the Pfizer vaccine.

Britain plans to give second doses of both vaccines within 12 weeks rather than the 21 days initially planned, to accelerate immunisations across as many people as quickly as possible.

(With inputs from agencies)

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Free Press Journal