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Schools closed as Britain begins life under strict COVID-19 lockdown

Schools closed as Britain begins life under strict COVID-19 lockdown
A shopping area in downtown Liverpool, England, is deserted Tuesday on the first day of a new lockdown imposed to stop the spread of COVID-19. Photo by Peter Powell/EPA-EFE

Jan. 5 (UPI) -- People in England and most of Scotland began life under a new COVID-19 lockdown Tuesday after the British government imposed sweeping new restrictions to help stem the spread of the pandemic.

The day began with schools newly closed to most students in England, Scotland and Wales following Prime Minister Boris Johnson's imposition of new COVID-19 rules.

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In a televised address Monday, Johnson said primary schools, secondary schools and colleges across England must move to remote settings -- with exceptions for vulnerable children of critical workers -- until the February half term.

The new lockdown also requires people to stay home except for limited reasons, such as shopping for essentials, exercise, working if unable to do so at home, seeking medical assistance or escaping domestic abuse.

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The step to close schools was taken "very, very reluctantly," Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove told BBC Radio Tuesday, saying he understands the concerns of parents and teachers about the impact of cancelling exams.

Education officials were seeking to find the "the best and most effective way" to test students, he said.

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"What we want to make sure is that the method of assessment is as fair as possible and takes into account the effect that disruption has had," Gove said.

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Johnson's move came shortly after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon imposed a lockdown on Scotland for the rest the month under most people are required to stay at home and closed schools to most pupils until February.

Police Scotland said there will be "increased patrols" in the country during the lockdown.

"We will have increased patrols in our communities to explain the regulations and to encourage people to do the right thing," Chief constable Iain Livingstone told broadcaster STV. "Where officers encounter willful breaches they will act decisively to enforce the law."

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