Chris Whitty says new COVID-19 strain can spread ‘more quickly’
Heavy new restrictions put in place in London and the southeast have caused widespread anger across the UK as the Government U-turns yet again on official advice. It follows a disastrous year for the UK, the worst affected country in Europe and throughout the world by the coronavirus.
Christmas is now looking very different for families across the country as many can no longer travel to see loved ones.
Millions of people are now subject to Tier 4 restrictions, the harshest in England.
The rules in these areas, which include London and Kent, closely resemble those of the two previous national lockdowns.
Social mixing is be limited to meeting one other person in an outdoor space, and all non-essential retail has now closed.
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Outdoor exercise is unlimited but a stay-at-home order is in place.
Thousands sought to flee the capital before the rules came in last night, packing out trains to such an extent that social distancing could not be adhered to.
The Health Secretary Matt Hancock branded their behaviour “irresponsible”.
Tiers across England are reviewed every few weeks, with places moving up or down depending on their local infection rate.
How long does Tier 4 last?
The new rules came into effect at 00.01am on December 20, and could be in place for months, according to the Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
Speaking to the BBC, he said: “The new variant is out of control and we need to bring it under control.
“We don’t know how long these measures are going to be in place.
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“It may be for some time until we can get the vaccine going.”
However, the next review of Tier placement across the country will be on December 30.
Cases have risen rapidly in recent weeks.
Britain has been one of the worst-hit European countries – with more than 67,000 deaths linked to coronavirus and more than two million cases reported.
The new strain which is spreading throughout Britain has been identified in Wales, England and Scotland – but not Northern Ireland.
Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government’s Chief Scientific Officer said that there was no evidence that the new variant “causes more trouble” and would make people sicker.
He added there were “theoretical reasons” to suggest that it may alter an immune response though there was no evidence for this.
“Our working assumption from all the scientists is that the vaccine response should be adequate for this virus,” he told the Downing Street press conference.
“We need to keep vigilant about this.”
Hundreds of deaths are being reported every day across the UK, with the largest outbreaks currently in the south.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have lower infection rates than England, but have also implemented their own rules, including national lockdowns which have already begun or will begin after Christmas.
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