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U.K. hit with worst recession in 300 years as country grapples with mutated COVID-19 strain

COVID pandemic transforms Christmas in Europe
Pope Francis gives Christmas blessing in empty square 02:39

The world is making adjustments following a new strain of the coronavirus, spreading in the United Kingdom and beyond as the country's government says it has entered its worst recession in 300 years.

Christmas in London was effectively canceled, many residents felt. The city's famed Oxford Street, normally the busiest shopping lane in all of Europe, was eerily quiet, CBS News' Roxana Saberi reports, after the mutated COVID-19 strain put the nation under a strict lockdown. 

U.K. authorities said the new strain was even more infectious, and banned mixing between households — including over the holidays. 

Queen Elizabeth delivered her traditional Christmas Day message while socially-distanced inside of Windsor Castle, reassuring Britons that "even on the darkest nights there is hope in the new dawn."

However, for thousands of truck drivers left stranded on the roadside when France closed its border to the U.K., frustration and anger took the place of celebration.

The country's struggles come as the number of new infections around the world approaches 80 million, resulting in 1.7 million deaths.

At the Vatican, Pope Francis gave his Christmas Day blessing to an empty St. Peter's Square normally filled with thousands of worshippers. 

The Catholic leader instead spoke to a small, socially-distanced group, calling for international cooperation by governments and businesses to make sure everyone got access to COVID-19 vaccines, especially the most vulnerable and needy. 

"We cannot erect walls," the pope said. "All of us are in the same boat." 

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