As UK fights new coronavirus strain, PM Johnson imposes tighter coronavirus curbs on millions

By Michael Holden and Kate Holton LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday imposed tighter coronavirus controls on millions of people in England and drastically scaled back plans to ease restrictions over Christmas, seeking to curb a new more infectious strain of the virus. The number of cases in England has soared in the last two weeks because of a variant of the virus that scientists said is up to 70% more transmissible

Reuters December 20, 2020 00:12:14 IST
As UK fights new coronavirus strain, PM Johnson imposes tighter coronavirus curbs on millions

coronavirus strain, PM Johnson imposes tighter coronavirus curbs on millions" src="https://images.firstpost.com/wp-content/uploads/reuters/12-2020/20/2020-12-19T134417Z_2_LYNXMPEGBI09G_RTROPTP_2_HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS-BRITAIN-VARIANT.jpg" alt="As UK fights new coronavirus strain PM Johnson imposes tighter coronavirus curbs on millions" width="300" height="225" />

By Michael Holden and Kate Holton

LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday imposed tighter coronavirus controls on millions of people in England and drastically scaled back plans to ease restrictions over Christmas, seeking to curb a new more infectious strain of the virus.

The number of cases in England has soared in the last two weeks because of a variant of the virus that scientists said is up to 70% more transmissible. Johnson said the government had to take urgent action.

"It is with a very heavy heart I must tell you we cannot continue with Christmas as planned," Johnson told a news conference. "I sincerely believe there is no alternative open to me."

London and southeast England - about a third of the English population - are currently in the highest level of a three-tier system of rules but will now be placed in a new Tier 4 level.

People in that tier will be required to stay at home except for essential reasons such as work, and non-essential retail will close, as will indoor leisure and entertainment. Social mixing will be limited to meeting one other person in an outdoor space.

Johnson had said on Friday he hoped England would not need a third lockdown after Christmas.

He had also resisted calls to change plans to ease restrictions for five days over the festive period and allow three separate households to meet indoors. He said on Wednesday it would be "frankly inhuman" to ban Christmas.

However, those now in Tier 4 will not be allowed to mix with others over Christmas. And all others will now only be allowed to see friends and family for one day.

The new rules will come into effect from Saturday night at midnight.

Like other countries in Europe, Britain is battling to contain the virus. Johnson's action comes after concern about a surge in cases, sparked by the new infectious strain of the virus - VUI202012/01.

It is the rate of infection that is worrying the government and its advisors.

"There's no evidence to suggest it is more lethal or causes more severe illness," Johnson said. "Equally, there's no evidence to suggest the vaccine will be any less effective against the new variant."

England's Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said authorities had alerted the World Health Organization and were continuing to analyse the available data to improve their understanding of the new strain.

Britain reported 27,052 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday and 534 deaths. The reproduction "R" number is estimated to be between 1.1 and 1.2, meaning the number of cases is rapidly increasing.

"Failing to act decisively now, will mean further suffering," Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust and a member of the government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), said on Twitter.

Britain has been one of the worst hit European countries - with more than 67,000 deaths linked to coronavirus and more than 2 million cases reported.

(Additional reporting by Elizabeth Piper and William Schomberg; Editing by Catherine Evans and Frances Kerry)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

Find latest and upcoming tech gadgets online on Tech2 Gadgets. Get technology news, gadgets reviews & ratings. Popular gadgets including laptop, tablet and mobile specifications, features, prices, comparison.

also read

Some Israeli Arabs, Jerusalem Palestinians wary of vaccine
World

Some Israeli Arabs, Jerusalem Palestinians wary of vaccine

UMM AL-FAHM, Israel (Reuters) - As Israel leads the world in the rate of coronavirus vaccination, some of its Arab citizens and Palestinians in annexed East Jerusalem are regarding the shot with suspicion. In what officials see as a result of misinformation about possible side effects or supposed malicious properties, turnout for vaccines has been low among Arabs, who make up 21% of Israel's population, and Jerusalem Palestinians. "I will not be vaccinated because I don't know what is in there

No diplomatic ties to Qatar yet, but trade, travel resuming, says UAE
World

No diplomatic ties to Qatar yet, but trade, travel resuming, says UAE

By Lisa Barrington DUBAI (Reuters) - Arab states boycotting Qatar could resume travel and trade links with Doha within a week under a U.S.-backed deal, but restoring diplomatic ties requires more time as parties work to rebuild trust, a United Arab Emirates official said on Thursday. Gulf powerhouse Saudi Arabia announced the breakthrough in ending a bitter dispute at a summit on Tuesday, with its foreign minister saying Riyadh and its allies would restore all ties with Doha severed in mid-2017. UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash told a virtual news conference that measures to be implemented within a week of the agreement "include practical measures of airlines, shipping and trade".

U.S. airlines, airports tighten security in DC-area after unrest
World

U.S. airlines, airports tighten security in DC-area after unrest

By Tracy Rucinski (Reuters) - U.S airlines and law enforcement agencies have bolstered security at Washington-area airports on Thursday after supporters of President Donald Trump caused mayhem in the U.S. capital in an attempt to overturn his election loss.