UK: New coronavirus strain leads to fresh restrictions

UK: New coronavirus strain leads to fresh restrictions

LONDON – With a surging new coronavirus strain, fresh restrictions will cancel Christmas mixing in London, the southeast and the east of England starting Sunday morning, Britain’s prime minister announced.

Boris Johnson told a Covid-19 press conference that those areas will be under the newly introduced Tier 4.

A new variant of the coronavirus is concentrated in Tier 4 areas, Johnson said.

Johnson’s remarks came only a few days after he said restricting household mixing in Christmas would be “inhumane” and permitted the mixing of three households on Dec. 23-27.

Across the rest of the UK, up to three households can still meet, but “this will be limited to Christmas Day only,” he added.

The new Tier 4 rules necessitate that residents stay at home, apart from limited exemptions, as well as the closure of non-essential retail, indoor gyms, leisure facilities, and personal care services, and people must work from home if they can until the next review on Dec. 30.

People are urged not to enter or leave Tier 4 areas, and residents of those areas must not stay overnight away from home, Johnson explained.

If you live in Tier 4 areas, you can only meet one person from another household in an outdoor public space, but communal worship can continue to take place, he also said.

He said their understanding of the “velocity of transmission of the new variant changed,” and the government is following the scientific advice.

“If you look at the southeast, the east and London, there has been a really dramatic increase in the number of cases,” said Chris Whitty, the government’s Chief Medical Officer, speaking alongside Johnson.

In the southeast, 43 percent of cases are now the new variant, in the east, it is 59 percent, and in London it is 62 percent, he said.

“Numbers have gone up very quickly in the last few weeks, they are much lower in other parts of the country,” he added.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also said on Saturday that there will be a strict travel ban in law between Scotland and the rest of the UK throughout the festive period.

She added that a previously declared five-day-long indoor mixing period will be reduced to one day on Dec. 25, Christmas Day.

“Standing here saying this makes me want to cry because I know how harsh it sounds … but this virus is unfair,” Sturgeon said. “This new strain is transmitting so quickly that it will very soon overwhelm us.” (Anadolu)

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