Representative image | Photo credit: IANS
The British capital will be under the highest coronavirus restrictions as of Wednesday as COVID-19 cases in London and the surrounding area have risen “very sharply” and a new variant of the coronavirus has been identified as responsible for the “faster spread” by the British government announced on Monday in Parliament.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs in the House of Commons that “quick and decisive action” is needed as the doubling rate of the deadly virus has only reached seven days in many of these areas.
Tier 3 restrictions, the highest level in England’s three-tier system, mean a near-total lockdown that allows people to meet those they don’t live with only in outdoor areas and restaurants that are supposed to be closed except for takeout and delivery.
“A new variant of the coronavirus has been identified in the UK, which may have been linked to the fastest spread in south-east England,” Hancock said.
“We don’t know how this is due to the new variant, but whatever the cause, we need to act quickly and decisively, which is unfortunately essential to control this deadly disease during the vaccine launch. We need to act.” Now to move the curve – because if the virus is moving fast, we have to move fast too, “he said.
The minister said experts had identified over 1,000 cases with the variant, mostly in the south of England. “Cases have been identified in nearly 60 different local authorities and the number is growing rapidly. Similar variants have been identified in other countries in the last few months,” he said, adding that the World Health Organization has been informed of the variant it is unlikely to be causes more serious illnesses than other variants of the coronavirus.
He emphasized that mobile tests and community tests will also be expanded. Another 67 local authorities are receiving community tests this week to help the areas “take steps down” and get back to normal life.
Regarding the current rollout of Pfizer / BioNTech vaccines, Hancock said that thanks to science, “help is on the way” but “it isn’t over yet”.
The announcement on Monday means Greater London, south and west Essex and South Hertfordshire will be classified in Tier 3 ahead of the official tier system review scheduled for Wednesday morning at 0001 GMT on Wednesday morning.