More parts of England will join London in the toughest tier of CCP virus restrictions from Boxing Day with the new strain “spreading at a dangerous rate,” the UK health secretary announced on Wednesday.
Nearly all of the southeast corner of the country will be in tier four one restrictions minutes after Christmas Day ends, as the counties of Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, and Cambridgeshire, as well as the remaining parts of Essex, Surrey, and Hampshire are added to the list.
“Just as we’ve got a tiered system in place that was able to control this virus, we’ve discovered a new, more contagious virus variant that is spreading at a dangerous rate,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock said. “We know that tier three is not enough to control the new variant.”
Speaking at a Downing Street press conference on Dec. 23, Hancock said that cases of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus (novel coronavirus) had risen by 57 percent in the last week. They are rising particularly fast in London.
Today, 691 people died with the virus, he said.
“COVID hospital admissions are 1,909, a day—that’s the highest figure since mid-April or 18,943 people in hospital,” he said.
Other areas will be moved from tier two to tier three: Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset, including the North Somerset council area, Swindon, the Isle of Wight, the New Forest, Northamptonshire, Cheshire, and Warrington.
Hancock said that as part of the genomic surveillance, two cases of another new variant from South Africa have been detected.
“This new variant is highly concerning, because it is yet more transmissible, and it appears to have mutated further,” Hancock said.
Travel restrictions are now being placed on South Africa. All people who have been to South Africa in the last fortnight, together with any of their close contacts, must now quarantine by law, Hancock said.
Hancock was asked why the government didn’t introduce a full national lockdown, given that the new strain has appeared in many places across the country.
“The variant is highly concentrated, and the stay at home rule in the east, the southeast, and London is aimed at keeping this new variant from spreading across the country,” Hancock said.
He said that they wanted to keep the measures proportionate, noting that in other parts of the country where the new variant numbers are low, the current tiers are working.
The government added tier four—essentially a regional return to the full lockdown measures—to the virus control measures in response to the uptick in the virus in London and the southeast, which they attribute to the new strain of the virus.
Under tier four, people have to stay at home except for limited exemptions, and individuals can only meet one person from another household in an outdoor public space.
Retail businesses deemed non-essential, indoor gyms, leisure facilities, and personal care services must close.
Travelling in and out of tier four areas is prohibited, and residents in tier four areas will not be permitted to travel abroad, apart from limited exceptions such as for work purposes.