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Several more areas across England will be moved into tier 4 restrictions from Boxing Day onwards, with other areas also moving up a level.
Amid concerns over a new particularly contagious strain of COVID-19, more areas across England will face the strictest levels of coronavirus restrictions from December 26.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘Just as we have got a tiered system in place, we have discovered a new more contagious virus, a variant which is spreading at a dangerous rate.’
Essex, Norfolk, Sussex, Surrey, Oxfordshire and Hampshire will join London and other areas in the southeast in tier four restrictions on Boxing Day.
Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Swindon, Isle of Wight, New Forest, Northamptonshire, Cheshire and Warrington will enter tier three restrictions. Cornwall and Herefordshire will also be escalated into tier two.
Hancock explained: ‘We know that the three-tiered system worked to control the old variant and is working now in large parts of the country especially in northern England. But we also know that tier three is not enough to control the new variant. This is not our hypothesis, it is a fact and we have seen it on the ground.’
He added: ‘We’ve seen case rates rise in some of the places close to where the current tier four restrictions are in places like East Anglia where we are seeing a significant number of the new variant and we’ve seen case rates rise sharply. It is therefore necessary to put more of the east and southeast of England into tier four.’
Hancock said: ‘We’re also taking action in parts of the southwest where there are some early signs of the new variant and where cases are rising.’
There are also two cases of another new, ‘highly concerning’ variant of COVID-19 in the UK, with both cases coming from people travelling from South Africa. ‘We are incredibly grateful to the South African government for their science. This virus is yet more transmissible and appears to have mutated further than the new virus,’ Hancock said.
New cases are being quarantined, in addition to fresh restrictions on travel from South Africa.
At the time of writing, the UK has seen more than 2.11 million confirmed cases of coronavirus, with 68,307 deaths. Just yesterday, December 22, 691 deaths were reported and cases have increased by 57% in the past week alone. With hospital admissions at their highest level since April, Hancock said it’s ‘absolutely vital that we act’.
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