Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, announced harsher coronavirus restrictions in England, resembling those last March, except that bubbles continued. People must work from home if they could; schools were closed and this year’s exams cancelled. Another £4 billion was directed to businesses in retail, hospitality and leisure. At Westminster, parliament was recalled. In Scotland, golf courses remained open and churches were closed. In England, churches remained open and golf courses closed. The actions came in response to a sharp rise in Covid infections, many from a variant virus. One in 50 were estimated to have the disease. At first, 44 million in England were put under newly-invented Tier 4 restrictions, but hospitalisations increased. The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was authorised. Vaccinations began slowly, but 1.3 million were given by 5 January. Retired doctors were prevented from vaccinating unless they underwent ‘diversity’ training. The government suddenly decided to give the two parts of the Oxford and the Pfizer vaccines 12 weeks apart, instead of the 21 days stipulated by Pfizer. At the beginning of the week, Sunday 3 January, total deaths (within 28 days of testing positive for the coronavirus) had stood at 74,570, including 4,134 in the past week. Margaret Ferrier MP, a suspended member of the Scottish National party, was charged in connection with an alleged breach of coronavirus regulations in September. Police broke up a rave held after people had broken into All Saints’ Church, East Horndon, Essex. Three Spurs players went to an illegal party. Gerry Marsden of Gerry and the Pacemakers, known for their recording of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, adopted by Liverpool football club, died aged 78.
The year had begun with the United Kingdom in possession of a trade agreement with the European Union after months of frustration; parliament passed a bill bringing it into law.