London saw wild scenes of a weekend mass exodus before the start of a Christmas lockdown and travel ban sparked by a new, more infectious mutation of COVID-19.
Within hours of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement Saturday of a new top-level lockdown for the capital and surrounding areas — one many detractors said had effectively “canceled Christmas” — thousands took to the roads and clogged up train stations.
Witnesses told The Sun it left London like a “war zone,” while journalist Harriet Clugston likened her viral video of people crammed into London’s St. Pancras station to those fleeing Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War.
“Last train out of Saigon,” Clugston wrote alongside her video seen more than 3.1 million times by Sunday morning, calling it “maximum damage guaranteed.”
“As expected, train is crammed … Everyone of course has suitcases,” she said from the train where there were announcements that social distancing “will not be possible” due to how many people were aboard.
She admitted that she — like all the others on the train — had “made what is probably a very silly and irresponsible decision to travel.”
But the last-minute announcement of the lockdown created “a very predictable stampede of people rushing to get out before the midnight deadline,” she wrote.
“It’s this that created crowds of people which increases the risk of virus transmission on the train.
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Sunday ripped the “clearly totally irresponsible behavior” of the masses rushing to travel before the midnight start of the lockdown.
“People should unpack their bags if they have them packed,” he told Sky News.
Hancock insisted the government had been forced to act “quickly and decisively” because the new mutation of the coronavirus “was out of control.”
The strain — which accounts for more than 60% of new infections recorded in London — appears to be more transmittable than previous variants, making it “more important now than ever” to control it, Hancock said.
“This is a deadly disease, we need to keep it under control, and it has been made more difficult by this new variant,” he told Sky.
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