New variant of Covid-19 identified in UK, minister says, as London heads back into strict lockdown

London A new variant of Covid-19 has been identified in the southeast of England, UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Monday, as he announced that London would return to a strict lockdown this week, after coronavirus cases there soared.

“Over the last few days, thanks to our world-class genomic capability in the UK, we have identified a new variant of coronavirus, which may be associated with the faster spread in the southeast of England,” Hancock said in Parliament.
He said similar variants had been identified in other countries in recent months, and that the UK had notified the World Health Organization about the new variant as expert analysis continues.
“I must stress at this point that there is currently nothing to suggest that this variant is more likely to cause serious disease, and the latest clinical advice is that it’s highly unlikely that this mutation would fail to respond to a vaccine,” Hancock added.

    It shows we’ve got to be vigilant and follow the rules, and everyone needs to take personal responsibility not to spread this virus,” he said.
    Hancock said London will be moved from England’s Tier 2 “high alert” local restrictions to the “very high” Tier 3 on Wednesday morning at 12:00 a.m., along with nearby areas in south and west Essex, and south and west Hertfordshire.
    Under the highest restriction level, all hospitality venues including pubs, cafes and restaurants will close.
    Residents are already unable to meet people from other households indoors, and will now not be able to meet in private gardens or at most outdoor venues. They may meet up to six people outside at parks, public gardens or sports facilities. Retailers will be able to stay open.
    London joins regions including much of northern and central England, Kent in the southeast, and Bristol in the southwest in Tier 3.
      However, people living in the UK will be allowed to form a “Christmas bubble” of up to three households between December 23 and 27. Households can only be in one bubble and may not change this.
      This is a developing story. More details to follow…

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