(Newser) – The crisis facing Britain this winter is depressingly familiar: stay-at-home orders and empty streets, hospitals overflowing, a daily toll of many hundreds of coronavirus deaths. The UK is the epicenter of Europe’s COVID-19 outbreak once more, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative government is facing questions, and anger, as people demand to know how the country has ended up here—again. Many countries are enduring new waves of the virus, but Britain’s is among the worst, and it comes after a horrendous 2020. More than 3 million people in the UK have tested positive for the coronavirus, and 81,000 have died—30,000 in just the past 30 days. The economy has shrunk by 8%, more than 800,000 jobs have been lost and hundreds of thousands more furloughed workers are in limbo.
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Even with the new lockdown, Mayor Sadiq Khan said Friday that the situation in London is “critical,” with one in every 30 people infected. “We will run out of beds for patients in the next couple of weeks unless the spread of the virus slows down drastically,” he said. Medical staff are at breaking point. Much of the blame for Britain’s poor performance has been laid at the door of Johnson. Critics say his government’s slow response as the virus emerged from China was the first in a string of lethal mistakes. Johnson has said it’s easy to find fault when looking back. “The retro-spectroscope is a magnificent instrument,” Johnson said in a BBC interview last week. A medical professor said people should be more forgiving of official missteps. “You do have to remember that there’s nobody who’s really managed a pandemic like this,” he told the BBC.